Let us not bury our head in the sand here. People relapse. In fact, lots of people relapse. Statistics tell us that 70 to 80 percent of addicts relapse after treatment. This is an astounding statistic! What, then, are the 20 to 30 percent doing that succeed?
In my practice, I know that people just get tired of trying to stay clean especially if they encounter any difficulties. When this tiredness happens, it is always accompanied by not working the program. For some, it seems that the rewards are not great enough to keep on keeping on. But even when things are going really well, for some, they choose to relapse anyway.
Addiction is a disease, and it is not the only disease with relapse rates. Recovery is hard. Life can be hard. Relationships can be hard.
But relapse is easy. It can just be a relief to stop the chatter in your head that wants you to use, so you use. You would think that the guilt, disgust, and the self-anger that follow a relapse would be enough to keep people from ever relapsing again, but you would be wrong. Multiple relapses are common even after addicts swear they will never relapse again.
My clients are drilled to expect cravings. When you expect something, you cannot be blindsided, cannot be surprised. Of course my clients are participating in aftercare, with me as a recovery coach, and working the program and going to meetings. These participations up the odds dramatically, but even addicts doing all of the above can and do decide to relapse anyway. They relapse less, but some of them still relapse. There simply is no magic bullet. There simply is no guarantee. All you can do is your best, and the main ingredient you must have is to want recovery more than anything in your life, more than anyone in your life. But the cold, hard truth is that the odds are not in your favor.
What to do? What to do?
Tell yourself you will put a stop to a relapse immediately. That is something you can do. Transform the possibility of a relapse into a slip. You are responsible for you. No one and nothing else is responsible for your recovery.
There are many reasons for relapse. Some people in the field of addiction think that the mismanagement of stress leads to relapse. But what is stress? How can an addict arm themselves against stress?
Again, glad you asked.
Addicts learn to handle stress the same way any other person handles stress. First comes the understanding that you cannot control him, her, them, or it. The only thing that can be controlled is you deciding to handle the stress that surely will come at you, but in a way that does not produce tension, frustration, anger, sadness, or basically anything that else that throws off your equilibrium. Sure, easier said than done, but with practice, like anything else, you get better at it. The greatest weapon you have against stress is the knowledge that you can control your thoughts. If you continue to program yourself that you control you, you will find yourself being less stressed. Asking yourself, really asking yourself, How important is this event anyway? is a great way to diffuse the feelings that cause stressful responses in your body. It is your feelings and your thoughts that allow stressful responses to flood your blood with hormones. What will you gain, what will you lose, if you become a person with greater control?
Greater control is a learned trait. Think about that for a moment. We can stress ourselves about thoughts of the future, as if we could actually know the future. Much of stress is not only responding to real events, but actually responding to what we think about, real or imagined.
Nowadays there is plenty of stress to go around. Many things seem more difficult now than ever before, and certainly in many ways this is true. Because stress is real, it is imperative to have daily doses of strength. Do not miss a meeting. Do not cancel an appointment with your recovery coach. Do not cancel an appointment with your therapist. Do not break a date with your sponsor. All of these things give you the daily dose of strength you need to carry on.
Remember, this is a big battle; one you must win. Do not ever give up. Losing this battle would be the biggest loss of your life. It is forbidden to accept such a loss. Please. Don’t.