Your Options After Relapse

Written by: Lynn Finnell, LMFT, LAADC | Reviewed by: Christian Small, MD

Your Options After Relapse

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    Approximately 40 to 60% of people relapse after treatment, which is why you shouldn’t feel ashamed. If you or someone you care about has relapsed, help is available. This article discusses the steps after relapse, including medical detox, treatment adjustment, and rethinking your recovery plan after treatment.

    Why Is Relapse Common?

    The truth is, addiction is a disease, and like most diseases, addiction can go into remission, but it can also come back. You might go without ever relapsing for years and then find yourself breaking sobriety. This is because addiction completely rewires your brain.

    Substance use affects how your brain produces pleasure chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. Whether you relapse or not can also depend on your mental health. If you have an untreated mental health disorder, you might not even realize how these things affect your addiction. Diseases that affect mood, impulsivity, or your ability to produce dopamine and serotonin can impact how effective coping mechanisms can be.

    The Moment After Relapse

    It can hurt realizing that you’ve relapsed. You might feel as if you’ve failed or as if all of the work you put into achieving sobriety has gone down the toilet. All of those years you’ve spent sober were for nothing. Now you have to start over. The truth is, everything you’ve done between treatment and now still has value. You aren’t a failure for relapsing. It’s something that can happen, and sometimes you don’t have control over it.

    Reach Out for Support

    After a relapse, you shouldn’t keep it from your support system. It would be best if you told someone right away so that they can get you help. Hiding your relapse can actually set you up to use substances even more. Your shame and fear might cause you to want to continue using, which can make your addiction even worse. If you’ve relapsed, reach out to a friend, family member, or someone you trust from the recovery community. Tell them what happened and how much you used so they can provide the help and support you need.

    Enter a Detox Program

    After using substances again, you’ll need to enter a detoxification program. Entering detox is essential because most substances will give you withdrawal symptoms that can vary in severity depending on what you used and how much you used. Medically assisted detox is the safest step towards getting off of substances again. However, the time you need to stay in detox depends on how often you used substances and for how long. If you delay getting help for relapse, detox will take longer.

    Re-Enter Treatment

    After detox, you’ll need to enter treatment. What form of treatment you enter depends on your needs and current situation. You’ll have to consider whether residential treatment would be best for you or if you should try outpatient. If the previous program or treatment method didn’t work for you, you’ll also want to think about that. For example, if you tried a larger treatment center and found that there were still problems that weren’t addressed, or you don’t know why you can’t shake your addiction, you might want to try a smaller treatment center. On the other hand, if you tried a conventional treatment and it was ineffective, alternative therapies and treatment might be the direction you need to go in.

    It’s highly recommended that you enter residential treatment since often, relapses occur due to outside triggers like being around substance use or being exposed to stress. For example, if work or home life has caused extra stress or contributed to poor mental health, then it’s best that you get out of that environment while you heal.

    Rethink Your Post-treatment Recovery Plan

    During treatment, you’ll want to reflect on what caused you to relapse. What parts of your life were unaddressed during that time? What coping mechanisms were working, and which tools weren’t beneficial? Thinking about the period where you relapsed, what you did or didn’t do, and what your environment was like during the time can give you insight into what needs to change in your life for you to be sober.

    If you’re aware of why you relapsed and what led up to it, you can know what to focus on during the treatment and where you might need to explore deeper. For example, if you relapsed because things were too stressful at work,  you’ll need to consider what adjustments you need to make in order to make work a healthier environment. If you felt close to relapse but didn’t reach out, you might want to evaluate the strength of your support system and what held you back from reaching out.

    Relapse isn’t something to be ashamed of but a normal part of addiction. You shouldn’t hide your relapse out of shame or postpone getting help. In fact, you should take care of it as soon as possible. A relapse has the potential to be dangerous. Relapses can lead to full-blown addictions that are worse than ever before. The risk isn’t worth waiting around to get help. You might feel as though you’ve lost all of your progress, but that isn’t true.

    It’s taken a lot of hard work to get where you are now, and that still counts for something. All you need to do is go through detox and start again. Take a look at what happened and make a plan for the future. Villa Oasis San Diego is here to help. To learn more about relapse and your options, contact us today at (323) 739-8673.

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