When dealing with our understanding of Substance Use Disorders, it is vital to be equipped with the correct tools. Knowing misinformation about what relapse means, oversimplifying it and its implication, and acting upon it is a massive disservice to those struggling with addiction.
We must try to unlearn old myths and relearn how addictions work. This small step can help someone believe that healing from addiction is possible and empower them to face the challenges.
Relapse is not an event that happens in isolation or a complete crumble of all the hard work. It is, in fact, a setback that can be overcome with time. What it is not is the end of recovery. You just need to believe that you can detox from alcohol.
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Relapse Is A Medical Condition And Here’s Why It Should Be Treated Like One
Relapse is a clinical term, which means the recurrence of the condition’s symptoms. It is often used to describe the return of cancer, heart disease, kidney failures, etc. Keeping this context in mind, we need to understand that the word “relapse” is used in addiction recovery because it is equivalent to recovering from a disease.
In fact, studies show that the number of people relapsing during addiction recovery is not different from other diseases. This only proves that substance abuse disorder is a complex disease with complicated medical conditions —and it should be treated as such.
Thinking of addiction in clinical terms is essential, mainly because a sheer volume of scientific research has shown that addiction is a medical disorder, and therefore it deserves clinical treatment. While at home, you can detox from alcohol, it is still wise to consult professionals who can help you through the process properly.
Relapse Is A Process — Here’s How
Let’s first accept that just like any other disease, addiction also deserves gentleness and treatment. Anyone who is healing from substance addiction is in recovery. And, if they return to using drugs, then they have relapsed.
Before we move forward, it is essential to note that relapse does not only include the final act of giving up and resuming the substance. The whole process leads up to it —the thoughts, actions, and internal dialogue.
Most of the time, relapse is preceded by stress, depression, change in routine, or disappointment with the recovery process. These things don’t just lead to relapse because they are part of the process.
The Road To Recovery Isn’t Linear
Ups and downs are a part of life. If a person recovering from substance abuse disorder hits the downs sometimes, it definitely does not mean it’s the end of the road. It’s an obstacle that can be overcome for sure.
Relapses often happen when one swerves away from their treatment, but does this mean they have failed? No. It only implies that treatment becomes more important, just like any other disease.
For example, when someone with a heart condition feels their symptoms are deteriorating, the doctor spends all the energy figuring out the aspects that are contributing to the decline of their state so a better treatment plan can be produced. Nothing is different about resting people with addictions.
Another vital fact to remember is that addictions are not cured/ In fact, they are managed. It is not a linear process, and thus it cannot be oversimplified. Moreover, one person’s progress cannot be compared to another in addiction recovery, as each case has its nuances and needs.
Therefore, to clear our understanding of what relapse is, we must understand it is not a moral failing or personal weakness. Instead, it is simply a moment of weakness —a minor drawback— that can be treated in rehab facilities or at home.
Relapse Should Be Taken Seriously
Is it true that relapse is not the end of recovery? Yes. But, is it also true that it should be used as a justification when one relapses and goes back to using substances? No.
Relapse is not an excuse. It can be dangerous to assume it as one. Not only can it permanently send someone in addiction recovery to go astray from the treatment plan, but it can also be potentially life-threatening.
The outcomes of relapse can be extreme, so it should never be taken lightly. However, a person recovering from substance abuse disorder should not perceive relapse as a failure and give up.
Instead, the reasons behind a relapse can be examined, and treatment plans can be modified as long as one continues to believe in recovery.
Recovery is not a one-day process. Instead, it requires patience and belief in the following things:
#1 Relapse is not just returning to the use of substances; it is a process that includes all the thoughts and actions that lead up to it.
#2 Relapse is not the end of recovery. Instead, it is a chance to adjust to new medical treatment.
#3 Relapse should be taken seriously as it can be fatal.
#4 Relapse during addiction treatment is no different than relapse during treatment of any other medical disease.
#5 Anyone who relapses during addiction recovery deserves medical treatment and empathy.