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Chronic Relapse: Why Can’t They Just Stop Using?

There are many reasons people begin using substances. However, there are specific reasons why some can’t seem to escape using. That is where chronic relapse comes into play. 

A relapse occurs when individuals who have been abstinent from their drug of choice return to use it. Research shows that more than 85% of people relapse within one year of treatment, making it all the more critical that we equip people with the tools for lasting recovery. 

Have you ever wondered why you or your loved one can’t seem to stop using? If so, this article will help you better understand chronic relapse and how long-term addiction treatment can help those struggling to maintain sobriety.

What is Chronic Relapse?

Chronic relapse is the inability to stay sober after multiple attempts at recovery. It’s one of the most common issues in alcohol and drug rehab because completing the treatment process does not mean you are cured. Sobriety is a lifelong commitment that takes effort to maintain.

When a person is relapse-prone, they often have multiple instances of relapse, even if they have had some initial success in treatment. In many cases, chronic relapse can be attributable to the length of stay in drug or alcohol rehab. Treatment of a chronic disease like addiction involves changing well-established behaviors with deep roots that may require a 90-day rehab or longer.

Some people relapse multiple times before they finally get to a point where they are comfortable in sobriety. For those unable to maintain sobriety, relapse becomes a part of life. They may never recover from their addiction long-term if they do not attempt something different.

Relapses can be an important part of the healing process because they allow people to learn from past mistakes. It then becomes easier to make changes so that they won’t continue using drugs or alcohol in the future. It’s also an opportunity to work with doctors and other experts to resume or modify treatment approaches.

The first step toward overcoming chronic relapses is realizing how common relapses are and accepting them as part of the journey toward long-term sobriety. The second step is learning what causes someone to relapse so they can avoid those triggers and situations. Awareness of one’s triggers will lower their chances of experiencing a relapse because it helps reduce temptation levels overall.

Why Do People Relapse, Even After Treatment?

Relapse is often a part of the recovery process. It doesn’t mean that the individual has failed at getting sober. Relapse can happen to everyone, even those highly motivated and actively trying.

The reasons why someone relapses may come from a combination of environmental and biological factors. Some of the most common reasons for relapse include the following.

Environmental Triggers

When a person leaves an addiction treatment center, they are often exposed to the same triggers that caused them to turn to substance use in the first place. Those triggers can lead them back to old habits that make maintaining sobriety difficult.

Brain Changes

Drugs and alcohol activate reward systems and chemicals in the brain, creating a strong urge to use the substance repetitively. Recovery does not mean the brain forgets the feelings and urges related to a person’s drug of choice. If a person returns to substance use even just one time, they can fall back into addiction quickly. It is important to note that these urges will not be as frequent or powerful in long-term sobriety.

Lack of Full Participation

Attending an addiction treatment center is not an easy fix. A person struggling with addiction will not see improvement if they are unwilling to put in the effort. Rehab gives people the tools to maintain their sobriety after leaving the facility. People must continue to follow the steps and instructions and prioritize their recovery over everything else. Those who do not participate wholeheartedly are unlikely to see long-term success.

Unrealistic Expectations 

Many people underestimate how long the treatment process will take and overestimate what life will look like after treatment. They often put undue pressure on themselves to recover within a specific time frame. Sobriety is a journey that differs from person to person. Each person will take a different amount of time to recover. Another common issue people in early recovery face is their expectations of a sober life. Everything will not be perfect in sobriety. Their life will be whatever they make it.

Lack of Healthier Habits

For sobriety to be lasting, it requires a complete shift away from the old way of life. Sobriety has to be the main priority after addiction treatment to stay on a sober path. For example, the alcoholic must understand that they cannot go out socially for drinks and expect to remain sober. Successful recovery requires replacing old habits with healthy new ones.

Signs of Chronic Relapse

Whether someone is exiting a year-long rehab program or they have been in treatment for a few weeks, it’s essential to remain vigilant about the recovery process. Equipping sober individuals with coping tools after treatment and knowing the signs of chronic relapse can help resolve issues before they become significant problems. The following are some of the signs and symptoms of chronic relapse.

A Messy Home and Work-Life

People who struggle with sobriety may also struggle with other aspects of their life. They may have poor relationships with family members or friends and no social support system. The place they return to after treatment could be full of triggers. For example, suppose they return to a house full of alcohol, and their family openly drinks before them. In that case, it will be much harder to maintain their sobriety. Return to a stressful work environment is often another trigger that leads to relapse.

Co-occurring Health Issues

Severe physical injuries and illnesses are common reasons people return to using a substance, as it helps relieve the nerves and pain. They could also be dealing with mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, holding them back from staying sober. (Note that it’s common to have a co-occurring mental health disorder that requires side-by-side treatment in recovery).

Going to Addiction Treatment Unwillingly

A person who doesn’t want help will not be emotionally and physically invested in the program and will likely leave when they can. For long-term recovery to work and to avoid relapse, an addict must have a strong desire to quit using drugs or alcohol. When trying to help a family member, it is essential to find out if they recognize they have a problem and are willing to seek treatment.

Attended Several Addiction Rehab Programs

Many people suffering from chronic relapse have been to several addiction treatment programs or the same program multiple times. Feelings of frustration, guilt, and lost confidence can quickly fill someone’s head. They see others finding success within recovery but cannot find it for themselves. A long-term treatment program like A Reprieve for Men is often the solution, allowing people more time to find the answer in sobriety that best fits them.

Suffering from Past Trauma and Grief

When someone experiences trauma and grief, it impacts their brain chemistry. These people become more vulnerable to stressors and more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, including substance use. They need to address the underlying issues to begin the recovery process. Counseling and therapy methods, such as EMDR and DBT, are commonly used to treat trauma and grief. Only once they confront these issues can someone focus on their recovery.

Dishonesty Surrounding Addiction and the Treatment Process

In recovery, people must be honest with themselves, their loved ones, and their treatment team about their substance use. Treating someone for their addiction is nearly impossible if they are not telling the truth. A lack of honesty indicates someone is not ready and committed to finding help. 

Loved Ones Are Exhausted from the Repetitive Cycle 

Addiction is tiring for the person with the disease, their friends, and family. Repeated relapses and treatment centers can make anyone feel hopeless. However, the average 21-28 day treatment program is not the only option. Long-term addiction treatment programs are often recommended in such cases, particularly if:

  • A stable environment is needed to focus on sobriety
  • Trauma and grief are blocking the path to recovery 
  • A longer time is required to heal physically, emotionally, and mentally
  • Relapse becomes commonplace after attending an average addiction treatment program
  • A deeper understanding of addiction, triggers, habits, and tendencies are needed
  • There is a lack of a strong support system when returning from treatment

Treating Chronic Relapse

A long-term treatment program is often needed to treat chronic relapse. Many options can work for various situations, from 90-day rehab to a year-long rehab program. 

Long-term treatment programs, like A Reprieve for Men, are designed for people who have been struggling with addiction for years and need help breaking free from the cycle of relapse. These programs offer counseling, group therapy, and medical care to help residents stay on track while in treatment. They also provide aftercare services designed to help patients transition into their daily lives once they complete the program. Most importantly, a long-term program offers a safe and secure place that allows someone to focus entirely on their recovery. Consider the benefits of long-term rehab below. (Add a link to the long-term benefits blog).

Getting to the Root of the Addiction

Suppose one struggles with substance abuse due to trauma, grief, or a co-occurring mental health disorder. In that case, long-term addiction treatment is ideal. These programs give people time to get to the root of issues and work through them at their own pace. Once they confront their traumas, they can heal and establish new habits before moving forward into a life without drugs or alcohol.

Meditation and Mindfulness

While in treatment, residents have access to healthy outlets like meditation and mindfulness activities that help to rewire the brain for sobriety. These practices teach residents how to manage triggers and cravings and be more present in life. Meditation and mindfulness activities can be done anywhere, anytime, and are incredibly effective in maintaining sobriety.

Ongoing Support and Supervision

The early stages of addiction recovery are especially challenging for those who experience physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. In long-term addiction rehab, residents have access to constant support and supervision from medical professionals with emotional and medically assisted treatment. Combining therapy, medication, and one-on-one and peer groups can help them overcome addiction.

Extended Time in a Positive, Sober Environment

Spending time in a sober, safe environment can be especially beneficial for people who’ve struggled with addiction for years. They have likely been exposed to many different situations and circumstances. When working on recovery from addiction, avoiding triggers that could lead back to old habits or behaviors is essential. Removing these triggers enables residents to avoid temptations that could cause relapse.

Ongoing Engagement in Recovery

Following a long-term addiction recovery program, individuals will be equipped with tools to maintain sobriety. The Reprieves will work with residents to find a supportive recovery community such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Celebrate Recovery. Finding a group that fits into each person’s daily schedule is essential. Ease of accessibility is also important, so there can be no excuses for skipping meetings. Some prefer online support groups or phone meetings, while others want face-to-face interaction.

Overcoming Chronic Relapse

Everyone deserves a second chance; this is especially true for those on the path to recovery from addiction. With the proper guidance, they can overcome their addiction and ultimately build a new life while avoiding triggers and relapses. 

At A Reprieve for Men, we believe sobriety is only possible through fostering positive relationships, which is much more likely in a long-term recovery program. For this reason, we strive to create a spiritually sound environment where individuals can accomplish addiction recovery in a positive, caring, creative, and fun environment. Through the union of spirituality, community, and self, residents can work together with our experts to create a plan for success. To learn more, contact us.