Challenges Associated With Substance Use Relapse

Challenges Associated With Substance Use Relapse

Going a long period of time — even the rest of your life — staying sober is possible. Achieving just one year of sobriety is rewarding and successful. However, it’s not always easy. What happens when a person has a sudden relapse? It is important to understand the many risks involved after a substance use relapse. 

Relapsing can come with many physical and psychological effects. Although an individual may face challenges involved before and after relapse, forgiveness is a significant part of recovery and healing. The challenges involved with overcoming substance use disorder (SUD) can seem insurmountable. Allowing oneself to surrender to recovery is the first step. Successful recovery involves a lifelong commitment and dedication to progress while maintaining sobriety.

What Does It Mean to Relapse?

When a person returns to abusing prescription medications, illicit drugs, or alcohol after a period of sobriety, this is what is known as a relapse. This occurrence is most common within the first few months of recovery.

Studies have shown that approximately 85% or more of individuals relapse by returning to alcohol consumption, illicit drug use, or even nicotine use within the first year after receiving treatment. Luckily, relapse is never the end of recovery. There is always hope of regaining sobriety and getting back on track.

Triggers That Lead to Relapse

Certain environmental, psychological, and daily life factors may trigger a relapse. Not reaching out for professional support during periods of stress or neglecting to take advantage of recovery resources can also lead to a relapse.

Unfortunately, people in recovery from addiction are always at some level of risk for relapse. Learning to recognize the warning signs may help fight strong urges and cravings for alcohol and drugs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs outlines the following as significant risk factors for relapse:

  • Low self-efficacy 
  • Decreased motivation or dedication
  • Lack of moral support from friends and family or professionals
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Maintaining contact with others who do not live a sober lifestyle
  • Living near an area with high substance usage
  • Leaving a mental health condition untreated

Anatomical, molecular, and neurochemical studies have found long-term neural changes in the brain that influence one’s risk of developing SUD as well as experiencing a relapse. These changes are difficult to overcome and may predispose someone to more struggles in recovery. Acute or chronic stress can also lead to relapse.

Effects From Relapse

It is important to understand that relapse happens gradually and in stages. After an individual has a drug or alcohol relapse, they may experience a wave of overwhelming emotions. Feelings of guilt and shame are normal after recognizing the mistake has been made. It is imperative to take full responsibility without beating oneself up for one’s actions. Returning to substance use may feel like a huge setback. While it is not an ideal situation, it does not mean one has failed. It is simply a learning opportunity in which one can look back, recognize stumbling blocks, and adjust one’s recovery maintenance strategies.

Understanding that relapse is common within the first year of recovery and taking the proper steps to prevent relapse is important. Learning the coping skills needed for relapse prevention is imperative to successfully fight off drug or alcohol cravings. This can help individuals pivot from substance use and create a positive outcome. Recovery is not easy for everyone. Therefore, finding the right balance in treatment can make a world of difference in your life.

Forgiveness and Prevention

It is quite common for a person with SUD to feel a strong sense of shame, guilt, remorse, or embarrassment after a relapse. An individual may be emotionally, physically, or mentally affected in many different ways. It is important to get medical treatment and professional support, then develop a great deal of patience as it takes time for everyone to successfully quit certain behaviors. 

Individuals must learn to identify and avoid certain triggers that may lead to a relapse. Managing stress levels with counseling or behavioral therapies are good methods for relapse prevention. Practicing a self-care routine and tracking or journaling one’s emotions can improve mental stability.

The most important step is to forgive oneself. Individuals may worry about what others may think about their regression, but this is a personal journey. Even going a short amount of time sober is something to be extremely proud of. 

Many individuals may just need additional support. Finding enjoyable sober activities can help them stay busy, remove unhealthy relationships, and be aware of their surroundings. Plus, staying out of certain environments that may trigger some people can protect them from social pressure. Taking these solid steps can prevent a relapse and potentially save one’s life.

Relapse is not the end. Though it can be hard to get back on track, if one is willing to put in the work, recovery is always possible.

There are many mental and physical challenges that may follow a relapse. Additional support may be highly beneficial for successfully staying sober and improving your quality of life as a whole. Here at 12 South Recovery, we use proven therapies and an evidence-based approach to addiction and mental health treatment. We specialize in treatment for a number of SUDs, mental illnesses, and co-occurring disorders. With our treatment plans, you will develop an increased confidence while in recovery. Our team helps you gain the strength to move forward and make positive changes in other areas of your life as well. If you feel you are in need of professional help, call 12 South Recovery at 866-839-6876.

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