Recovery from an addiction is not always smooth sailing.
Researchers have found that 40 to 60 percent of people who get clean will relapse at least once. Relapse does not have to happen, but if it does, forgive yourself, learn from it, and move on. Do not get stuck. Below are the top five reasons people relapse. Being aware of what is going on inside of you and reaching out to others will help you get through these tough times.
- Fear – Fear of the unknown will sometimes push people back into what they have become comfortable with. In recovery, we are stepping out of our comfort zone. In the past, drugs and alcohol were the answer to our problems. Now, when issues arise, we need new tools to deal with them. Having a network of people in sobriety to lean on and talk through your fears with helps greatly. Sometimes, we are even afraid of success, thinking that we are not good enough. This is addiction’s way of getting us to go back to our old ways. Like the Big book says, addiction is cunning, powerful, and baffling. Be prepared for fear to pop into your mind when trying to do new things. It is natural, and every time we work through it, we get stronger!
- Stress – Stress is probably the leading cause of all deaths. Stress causes all kinds of health issues from heart disease to irritable bowel syndrome. We cannot totally eliminate stress from our lives, but we can find healthy outlets. People with addiction problems often used drugs or alcohol to deal with stress, hoping that stress would go away, at least temporarily. Once we put down the drug of choice, we need to find new ways to deal with stress. If you feel your stress level rising, do things to de-stress like deep breathing, yoga, walking, or some form of physical exercise. Walk it out or talk it out. Picking up is not the answer, nor will it make stress go away.
- Negative Emotions – Negative emotions and thoughts can lead to a relapse. If you find yourself slipping into negative emotions, the first thing to do is be aware of them–and to remember that they do not represent reality. Try to minimize the things and people in your life that bring you down. Consistent low moods correlate with relapse. In recovery, we need all of the positive influences we can get. Your sobriety is worth it.
- Loneliness – Being lonely is often a top reason for relapse. When a person gets into recovery, they are often filled with guilt and shame for their previous actions. The friends they used to use with have drifted away. Their relationships with family and/or loved ones may be strained due to tensions caused by the addiction. The best thing to do is to get into meetings or group counseling and begin to build a new network of people in recovery. Commit to a program of sobriety–and to reaching out to others when you feel lonely.
- Getting into a sexual or romantic relationship – Getting into a relationship before we are ready to handle all of the emotions that come with it is a recipe for disaster. It happens so often; people get a few months clean and are feeling on top of the world. They start craving romance and intimacy, and start searching for someone to share their life with. A rule of thumb in AA is to not get into a relationship for the first year of sobriety. The reason behind this is the high relapse rate. Gaining a sturdy foundation in the first year is the best thing to do, so when you do find someone, the relationship will be healthy.
Recovery is a life-long process. Addiction did not happen overnight. Having tools to use in your new life will give you the strength you need to get through rough times and help prevent relapse.