Does Relapse Mean I’ve Failed Recovery?

Addiction recovery is a lifelong journey. During this journey, the potential for relapse always remains. Unfortunately, the relapse rates for addiction and substance use disorder (SUD) are high. If you relapse during your recovery, you will most likely feel guilty, disappointed, and upset for doing so. However, it is crucial to understand that relapse does not mean that you have failed recovery. 

Relapse offers an opportunity for you to readdress your treatment plan and incorporate more relapse prevention into it moving forward. In addition to modifying your treatment plan, you may want to consider applying meaning-making skills to determine why your relapse occurred and to create long-lasting solutions. 12 South Recovery is an addiction and mental health treatment facility that strives to create meaning-making solutions for clients who relapse throughout any stage of recovery. 

Understanding Relapse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a “chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. The ”relapsing” element of this definition highlights that relapse is, unfortunately, often a part of the recovery process. As addiction is chronic in nature, many individuals will find themselves returning to alcohol and drug use after they attempt to stop. 

Lapse, Relapse, and Prolapse

The Indian Journal of Psychiatry explains several different factors of relapse that may help you better understand an experience of relapse during your recovery. To begin:

The initial transgression of problem behaviour after a quit attempt is defined as a ‘lapse,’ which could eventually lead to continued transgressions to a level that is similar to before quitting and is defined as a ‘relapse.’

If you have recently found yourself having a drink or returning to drug use one time, it can be considered a one-time lapse. On the other hand, if you have found yourself returning back to a full-blown, chronic use of substances after ceasing your use, it is considered a relapse. After a lapse, it is imperative to reach out for professional support and guidance to reduce your risk of experiencing a relapse. The aforementioned journal continues to explain:

Another possible outcome of a lapse is that the client may manage to abstain and thus continue to go forward in the path of positive change, ‘prolapse.’ 

A prolapse can occur with or without professional help. However, utilizing professional support is often the most effective way to mitigate any potential complications of a lapse. Professional support can also ensure that you are making necessary alterations to your treatment plan and establishing solutions for positive change moving forward. 

The Prevalence of Relapse for Substance Use Disorders

The NIDA highlights relapse rates for SUD to be 40-60%. These rates are compared to those with other chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure (50-70%) and asthma (50-70%). The prevalence of relapse for SUD affirms that treatment for SUD should be treated like other chronic illnesses, serving “as a sign for resumed, modified, or new treatment,” according to the NIDA.

Preventing Relapse Throughout Long-Term Recovery

Experiencing relapse – whether a one-time lapse or a full-blow return to chronic substance use – can be extremely disappointing. If you have relapsed, understand that you are doing your very best. You entered treatment with a willingness to cease your substance use, regardless of the situation and circumstances that led you to do so. If you are truly committed to achieving sobriety, you must use your relapse to propel you forward in your recovery. 

It is important to understand that the key to long-term recovery is individualized treatment. Perhaps you felt like your initial treatment program wasn’t as engaging as you wanted it to be. In contrast, perhaps you felt like your treatment program was life-changing, which is why you are struggling to imagine altering your treatment plan. Whatever the case is for you, your relapse has called you back to treatment. Use it to your advantage and participate in a treatment program that is tailored to your needs and recovery goals. 

Relapse Prevention Strategies

Every treatment facility will approach relapse prevention in its own way. While addressing your relapse, you will be encouraged to become aware of the consequences of your alcohol and drug use. From there, you will need to foster an agreement with yourself that by partaking in repeated lapses or continued relapse, you are putting yourself at risk of life-threatening consequences. Despite the high prevalence of relapse for SUD, you must not take relapse lightly as it can truly be a matter of life or death.

Fostering Meaning-Making Solutions in Treatment

In addition to the strategies mentioned above, you may benefit greatly from participating in a program that embraces meaning-making solutions for relapse during treatment. Meaning-making involves addressing the circumstances of your relapse to gain deeper insight into your experience. Using this insight, you and your treatment team can modify your treatment plan to best prevent future relapse moving forward.

Using meaning-making strategies can help ensure that if or when you find yourself in a potential relapse situation in the future, you can respond to the situation in a way that aligns with your recovery goals. Amidst temptations, you can feel confident in your ability to remain sober, especially when the consequences of relapse remain at the forefront of your mind. 

Relapse is a return to chronic substance use after attempting to stop. Due to the chronic nature of addiction, relapse is often a part of the recovery process for many. Rather than viewing your relapse as a failed recovery, you can use it as an opportunity to modify your treatment plan. 12 South Recovery believes in addressing relapse through meaning-making strategies. We want our clients to feel empowered to find solutions for their past relapses to prevent relapse as best as possible moving forward. Our outpatient programs offer a wide range of therapies, including relapse prevention therapy, that you can greatly benefit from. To learn more, call us today at 866-839-6876.

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