How to Stop Chronic Relapse

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Relapse is an unfortunately common obstacle on the path toward successful, long-term recovery. If your recovery efforts have been undermined by chronic relapse, please know that the situation is far from hopeless. When you understand the causes of your struggles and take appropriate steps, you can achieve your goals and build a foundation for lifelong sobriety.

What Does Chronic Relapse Mean? 

If you have spent much time researching substance use disorders (addictions), you may have come across a statement like this: Drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic relapsing illness.

But what does this mean? Let’s break it down.

The two key words in this description are “chronic” and “relapsing.”

  • Chronic means that addiction is a long-lasting or persistent disorder. In this way, addiction is similar to medical conditions such as diabetes and arthritis. People who develop these diseases are unlikely to ever be fully cured – but they can receive help to manage their symptoms and minimize their distress. The same is true of addiction.
  • Relapsing refers to the fact that many people who struggle with addiction will “fall off the wagon” or return to active substance abuse. This underscores the powerful hold that addiction can have on a person’s thoughts and actions. In addition to helping patients develop relapse-prevention skills, most reputable addiction treatment centers also discuss healthy ways to respond to relapse.

The term “chronic relapse” can also be used to describe multiple returns to active substance abuse. A person who struggles with chronic relapse may revert to this self-defeating behavior many times before they are finally able to gain a solid foothold in recovery. 

Causes of Chronic Relapse 

“I don’t want to use drugs any more – but no matter how hard I try, I keep falling back into my bad old habits. Why can’t I stop relapsing?”

The sad truth about addiction and recovery is that statements like this aren’t all that uncommon. As we alluded to in the previous section, addiction can exert tremendous influence over how people think and act. 

Many people relapse after they’ve completed treatment. Often, relapses are minor bumps on the road to long-term recovery. But for some people, chronic relapses prevent them from establishing a healthier and more hopeful lifestyle.

Here are some potential reasons why a person may experience chronic relapse:

  • Not fully understanding their triggers (the circumstances that can undermine their sobriety)
  • Not creating strategies for avoiding their triggers. Or, building the skills they need to respond to triggers in a healthy manner.
  • Becoming isolated, which can result from failing to develop a functional personal support network
  • Becoming overconfident and failing to follow their recovery plan
  • Failing to properly address a co-occurring mental health disorder
  • Continuing to associate with people who encourage them to drink or use other drugs

Signs that Someone You Know Has Relapsed on Drugs or Alcohol

People who struggle with compulsive substance abuse often go to great lengths to hide their behaviors from friends, colleagues, and family members. This desire for secrecy may be particularly strong among those whose lives continue to be disrupted by chronic relapse, and who are ashamed of their inability to maintain their sobriety.

If you suspect that someone you care about has relapsed, here are some signs to watch for:

  • They undergo dramatic shifts in mood, attitude, and energy.
  • They have become secretive about where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing.
  • They have started to pull away from their family and friends.
  • They seem to disappear – which can include failing to respond to phone calls or texts – for extended periods of time.
  • Their performance at work or in school has begun to decline.
  • They sometimes appear to be confused, disoriented, or disheveled.
  • They have stopped attending support group meetings.

Ideally, someone who has completed treatment for addiction will know how to prevent a temporary relapse from descending into full-blown, active addiction. But knowing how to respond isn’t the same as actually taking the necessary steps to once again stop using substances. 

If you believe that someone in your life is struggling with either a one-time slip-up or chronic relapse, don’t ignore your suspicions. Talk to your loved one about your concerns, reiterate your support, and discuss ways that they can re-start their recovery.

How Do Treatment Centers Help With Chronic Relapse?

Sometimes, the right response to relapse is to reengage with a support group. Scheduling a few extra sessions with a counselor or therapist is beneficial as well. In other cases, a return to treatment is the right call.

The way that a treatment center can help someone overcome chronic relapse will depend on the unique features of the individual’s continued struggles. Services that may be appropriate include:

  • Medication to ease cravings or other symptoms
  • Medication and therapy to address co-occurring mental health concerns
  • Education and therapy to address triggers, stress-management shortcomings, relationship problems, and other concerns
  • Development of a detailed discharge plan, which may include referrals for step-down programming, outpatient counseling, and/or community-based support groups

Contact Our Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers at Renewal Health Group

The Renewal Health Group team understands the many challenges of achieving long-term recovery from addictions to alcohol and other drugs, and we are here to help people who are having difficulty maintaining their progress. 

Whether you are an alumni of one of our centers or another treatment facility — or if you had previously attempted to end your substance abuse on your own — our team of compassionate experts can put you back on the path to successful recovery.

To learn more about our programs, services, and locations, or to schedule a free assessment, please either visit our Contact Us page or call our center today. We look forward to answering your questions and helping you determine if our centers are right for you. 

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