Like a stalking predator in the night, addiction never truly goes away. It’s a constant condition, a disease that will remain with the addict for the rest of their life. This isn’t something to be ashamed of. No reasonable person would shame a cancer patient for having cancer or a diabetic person for having diabetes.
Like cancer and diabetes, there is no cure for addiction. However, addiction can be managed and kept in remission with proper care and vigilance. Aftercare is the program or lifestyle one follows after they complete their rehabilitation program and leave the facility. It can include going to meetings regularly, meeting with other rehab alumni, keeping in regular contact with their sponsor, or whatever methods work in order to keep their addiction in check.
Relapse is an ever-looming threat for any addict. Their brain has been rewired to accept the use of their drug of choice as “normal,” so not taking this drug is “abnormal” to their brain chemistry. The compulsion to pick up and use again will always be present, lurking in the shadows, so a recovering addict must always be vigilant and aware of the dangers of relapse.
What Are the Warning Signs of a Relapse?
One sure warning sign of an impending relapse is the notion that you can have “just one” and be fine. Overconfidence is the fall of many, as many feel the desire to prove they have conquered their addiction. Most of the time, however, those who pick up just one more drink or pill or whatever end up right back where their left off.
Another sign that a relapse may be just around the corner is romanticizing about the old days of drug use, before you started suffering the real consequences. It’s easy to remember all the good times and the parties while forgetting the sickness, the withdrawals, and all the consequences of drug use. Remind yourself why you quit in the first place and keep an active awareness of the horrible things your addiction did to you.
Falling back into old habits is another red flag to watch out for. It’s easy to miss old friends and old haunts, but if those old friends were the people you would hang out with while using and your haunts
were your favorite bars, reconnecting with them is only going to lead to using again. Better to stick to socializing with clean and sober friends in new locations, where the temptation to use won’t be as prevalent.
Drifting away from relationships and becoming overly defensive about changes in your attitude is dangerous because these are behaviors you exhibited while using. If you find yourself behaving in such a way that you did while using, lying to family and friends, losing interest in hobbies, spending less time with loved ones, and resenting those trying to help, these are good warning signs that a relapse is on it’s way.
Coping With Relapse
It’s important to understand that if a relapse occurs, it’s not the end of your recovery, let alone the end of the world. Addiction has roughly the same relapse rate as other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma.
Should a relapse occur, the most important thing is to nip it in the bud right away and not let it keep you down. Pick yourself right back up and learn from the mistake. Identify the factors that lead to the relapse, figure out what caused it, and determine how you can prevent the same thing from happening again in the future.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends for help, talk to your sponsor, and stick to your 12-step meetings. If needs be, consider going back into a treatment facility. Relapse isn’t failure, it’s just a stumbling block. Whether or not you fall is entirely up to you, so make the decision to learn from it and stay on the path of your recovery.