Recovering from addiction is a slow and complicated process. Although many people think that addiction recovery simply involves ending the abuse of an addictive substance, the reality is that recovery involves several components and each takes time and patience to work through. Ultimately, a person recovering from an addiction will be in recovery for the rest of her life. Since it’s a long-term process, it’s natural for a person going through it to experience frustrations and setbacks. It’s helpful to know how to handle these speed bumps on the road to recovery so that they don’t lead to more serious problems.
What is Addiction?
The American Psychological Association defines addiction as “a condition in which the body must have a drug to avoid physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.” When a person has an addiction, she will likely find herself unable to live a normal life. She may try to hide her addiction from her friends, family and coworkers, and may deny that any problem exists. But addiction takes its toll on a person physically, psychologically and socially, and eventually her life may begin to fall apart.
How Does a Person Recover from Addiction?
Some people who struggle with addictions decide to get help from a rehabilitation program, and this is an excellent first step towards recovery. Rehabilitation is only the beginning of recovery, though, and a person can only begin long-term recovery once she completes rehabilitation and returns to her daily life. As Jason Powers explains, recovery consists of several components:
- Abstinence: the person learns how to avoid the drug and any related objects, locations or people that may tempt her to begin the addiction again.
- Improved psychological and physical health: she begins taking better care of herself through exercise, healthy eating and positive hobbies. She may also visit a counselor or doctor to work through any health conditions co-occurring with the addiction.
- Better social relationships: when possible, she should make attempts to restore any relationships damaged by the addiction and should also seek to surround herself with positive and supportive friends and family members.
Dealing with Relapse in Addiction Recovery
But even with the best recovery plan, it’s still possible to experience struggles or even a relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that relapse occurs among people recovering from drug addictions in more than 40% of cases, a percentage similar to other chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. When relapse happens, the person can feel defeated and hopeless, but she need not think that her recovery is over. Instead, she should view relapse as a temporary setback that she can overcome. David Sack lists the following strategies a person can use to avoid relapse:
- Receive integrated treatment: since many people struggling with drug addiction also have at least one other mental health condition, getting treatment for both conditions simultaneously can help the person figure out how to manage both her addiction and the other conditions that may be interacting with it.
- Continue treatment after initial rehabilitation: support groups, outpatient treatment and individual therapy are all great ways to get additional help with managing an addiction.
- Medication: if the person experiences strong cravings for the drug after rehabilitation, she may benefit from taking a short-term dosage of a non-addictive medication that reduces these cravings.
- Hands-on practice with new skills: sometimes learning about new skills for maintaining sobriety isn’t enough; the person may also need personalized therapy that gives her opportunities to practice her relapse prevention plan in a safe environment.
Relapse can be frustrating to experience, especially if a person has been working hard to maintain her sobriety. But instead of thinking that recovery is over if relapse occurs, the person should instead realize that it is merely a speed bump that can be conquered with commitment and help from a professional mental healthcare provider.
Find Out More About Relapse and Addiction Recovery
If you or someone you care about is unsure of what to do after relapse, please give us a call at 615-490-9376. Our admissions coordinators can talk to you about continuing recovery after relapse.