Breaking the Cycle of Relapse

Addiction recovery is different for every individual.  While some people find lasting sobriety on their first or second try, others struggle with chronic relapse.  Relapse is not necessarily inevitable, but it is common and should be seen as an opportunity for growth and adjustment in the recovery process.  However, repeated relapses can leave those with addiction feeling hopeless and frustrated. The best way to prevent another relapse is to seek professional treatment from a program equipped to address the unique needs of the chronic relapser.  However, there are several strategies commonly used in these programs that can be helpful to consider before taking the next step on your journey to life-long sobriety and wellness.

Move Past Guilt

Guilt and shame are inevitable when it comes to addiction and substance abuse.  While everyone’s story is different, common reasons for intense guilt in addiction are the mistreatment of people you love, an inability to take care of your responsibilities at work or home, frequent dishonesty with the people in your life, and the feeling that you aren’t strong enough to stay sober.  While guilt has its place in the recovery process, it can also be extremely detrimental to your success.  

After chronic relapse, it is easy to find yourself wallowing in guilt and shame, and in the same ways, having a sense of guilt can help you to recognize personal responsibility and maintain accountability in the recovery process.  However, too much guilt can lead to a depressed and hopeless state, wherein the little voice in your head tells you that you aren’t worth caring for, and trying again would be pointless. All too often, guilt over past wrongdoings or a minor slip-up can be the root cause of a full-blown relapse.  Instead of allowing yourself to stay in that dark emotional state, acknowledge your guilt as a signal to accept responsibility for what has already occurred, and then quickly move past it. This, of course, is easier said than done, but a professional addiction counselor or mental health therapist can help you find new ways to release your guilt and move forward with your recovery.

Carefully Identify Your Triggers

If you have struggled with chronic relapse, there is a good chance that you need to work on identifying and managing your triggers.  You may be putting yourself in a position to be triggered without even knowing it, or you may not be doing a good job of removing yourself from situations that you know are triggering.  For example, you may have put off cutting ties with people that you know are bad for your sobriety. Avoiding people that encourage you to use and making new connections with people who support your sober lifestyle may be the significant change you need to make your last relapse your final relapse.  Additionally, you may be dealing with emotional triggers that you aren’t consciously aware of doing. If you find yourself experiencing cravings at a particular time of the day or in certain places, it is worth investigating why that is and what you can do to change it. Mental health professionals and addiction experts can help you to uncover your unique triggers and find more efficient ways of dealing with them in the future.

Stay on Top of Your Sobriety

Sometimes relapse happens when you encounter sudden stress or hardship in your life.  Other times, relapse occurs seemingly out of nowhere, when everything seems to be going well.  Whether you have a history of turning to substance abuse in hard times or happy times, it is likely that chronic relapse has only continued to be a problem because something caused you to neglect your recovery work.  Recovery requires lifelong vigilance, meaning that you need to keep up with your mental health care, group support meetings, and adherence to the 12 steps. Some people begin to turn away from these critical support systems when life becomes too overwhelming, or when everything seems to be going so well that they no longer feel they need them.  The truth is that addiction is a chronic illness, and while recovery is possible, you can’t take a break from taking care of yourself or your recovery needs.

Renew Your Sense of Gratitude

When you feel stuck in the cycle of addiction, it can be challenging to remember to practice gratitude every day.  But acknowledging all that you have and choosing to be grateful for each new opportunity is a critical part of successful recovery.  Each relapse can serve as a reminder of the many destructive aspects of substance abuse, and ending chronic relapse usually involves learning to be grateful for the gift of sobriety.  Being sober is not a punishment or a sentence you are required to serve, but it is the best way to be entirely present for the adventure of life. Remember to be grateful to yourself for each day that you remain sober, and to regularly extend that gratitude to everyone that supports you on this journey.  

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help. At Burning Tree, you will find knowledgeable and compassionate professionals that structure treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders. Through accountability and commitment to the 12 Steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers and believe with the right support, you can experience real and permanent healing. For more information, call us now at 866-287-2877


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