Can You Learn from a Relapse?

A slip is an error in learning… (People) who recover from habits they want to change treat slips very differently. They see themselves as having made a mistake they needn’t repeat. And RECOVERING from a slip gives them stronger confidence in their ability to resist temptation.”

~Dr. G. Allan Marlatt, PhD, Director, Addictive Behaviors Research Center, University of Washington

To be absolutely clear – a relapse during recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is NEVER all right… or to be expected… or bound to happen. The primary goal of recovery is ALWAYS to avoid substance use.

Keep this in mind – ANYONE can suffer a relapse, at any stage of recovery, and even after years of successful sobriety.

 Even YOU.

Addiction Relapse versus Other Conditions

 Because addiction is a lifelong illness, a relapse is more than just possible—it may even be probable. Take a  look at how addiction relapse rates compare to other chronic conditions

  • 40% – 60% of drug addicts relapse during their lifetime.
  • 30% – 60% of Type I Diabetics don’t stick to their prescribed plans.
  • 50% – 70% of hypertension patients fail to comply with their diet and medication plan.
  • 50% – 70% of asthmatics don’t take their medication correctly.

Most chronic diseases have roughly comparable relapse or nonadherence rates.
It is important to keep in mind that all chronic illnesses are successfully treated or managed with medication and by the patient changing their behaviors.

But also keep in mind that those unhealthy habits are probably ingrained to the point of second nature.  In fact, addiction is an irresistible compulsion. These habits and this compulsion are what make relapse so likely, because it takes time to break free.

When you experience a setback in your recovery, whether it was “only” a slip (a brief, temporary return to substance use) or a full-blown relapse (a longer, serious return to substance use and self-destructive behaviors), it does not have to mean that your recovery has failed.

Relapse as an Opportunity to Grow Stronger

What it does mean, however, is that there needs to be renewed focus or adjustments made to the existing recovery plan. It can also be a learning opportunity, to discover what (or who) triggered the relapse, and then move forward wiser stronger, and more determined than you were before.

Triggers are those people, places, things, thoughts, or emotions that you associate with drug use or drinking. Examples of triggers might include:

  • Bars
  • Liquor stores
  • Drug dealer’s house
  • Drink or drug buddies
  • TV shows or movies depicting substance use
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Empty liquor bottles or beer cans
  • Resentment
  • Boredom

What Does This Mean to YOU?

People in early recovery are taught to avoid these triggers whenever possible. An important learned skill is how to successfully deal with triggers when they can’t be avoided. Dr. Marlatt says, “Habit change depends on increasing your awareness of just where in your life the temptations come from, and finding skillful ways to handle them.”

Recovery doesn’t just HAPPEN—it is the daily practice of positive skills. And it is these skills that help you prevent and respond to relapses that could derail your return to sobriety. Learning these skills is only part of the treatment you will receive at Chapman House—one of the top drug and alcohol rehab programs in Orange County, California.

If you want to base your recovery on the strongest possible foundation, contact Chapman House TODAY.

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