What Happens When You Relapse After Rehab

What Happens When You Relapse After Rehab

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

What To Do If You Relapse After Rehab

Although many movies and television shows that deal with addiction may show rehab as the final step, it is quite common for many to relapse after rehab. Whether it is a small slip or a full-blown relapse, having to enter rehab multiple times is not as uncommon as you might believe. For many, the shame of having to go back after slipping may prevent a person from truly getting the help they need. Many people relapse multiple times. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but it does allow a person to examine why they keep relapsing.


Although exact figures do not exist, it is estimated that 50% of those entering rehab treatment will slip at least once during their recovery process, especially in the crucial time once they reintegrate back into life after rehab. That number may be low because quite often slips are not reported. This means that for those who are entering rehabilitation, the chances of slipping back to your old habits are greater than 50%.


What is needed is a better understanding before you enter rehab for the first time that this is only part of the process of recovery. This is because a relapse is not an ending, but only part of the overall recovery process.


What is a Relapse After Rehab?


This is when the symptoms of an addiction rise up again. A relapse after rehab is often preceded by a triggering event. It could be a rise in the level of stress, exposure to the drugs or alcohol that were part of your addiction, or a combination of events that leads to a relapse after rehab. This is not a sign of being weak willed or unable to control your actions. Instead, a relapse is much like an illness that comes back from time to time until it is fully addressed.


What’s important to remember is that a relapse after rehab is not failure. Nor is it a sign that your addiction is beyond hope. If anything, a relapse may represent an opportunity to work on coping skills and harden your resolve to finally overcome your addiction.


How Can You Avoid a Relapse After Rehab?


The best way to deal with a relapse is to avoid it in the first place. There are things you can do to assist in preventing a relapse from occurring. What follows are a few tips that will help ensure you stay on the right path.


HALT: This is an acronym that stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These are the emotional states that increase the chances of a relapse occurring. And while you cannot avoid all of these conditions all the time, you can identify when it happens so you can be better prepared.


Preparation of strategies for relapse prevention is the best way to avoid the four states of being more vulnerable to a relapse. For hunger, have healthy snacks and plenty of water with you. If you become angry, use simple techniques to calm down. Being lonely is tougher, but schedule times of being with or talking to other people to help you get past that feeling.


Finally, be sure you get plenty of rest to avoid becoming tired. Exercise can also help in maintaining your health along with drinking plenty of water. But there are other things that you can do as well.


Avoid Trigger Situations: It’s a lot easier to avoid situations that may trigger a relapse rather than having to deal with them. Learning to identify and avoid such situations can be done in most circumstances. Keep the telephone number of someone in your support group handy, so you can talk to them during these times.


Of course, you cannot avoid all triggers. This means that you will need to know what to do in case you are stuck in a trigger situation.


Learn Stress Management: Effective stress management will help you reduce stress and maintain your relationships. This will help lessen the impact of a triggering event, so you can stay on track.


Lean on Your Relationships: Addictions can lead to isolation which in turn makes them more powerful. Maintain and build your relationships, so you can stay healthy, strong, and active within your group of family and friends.


However, even the best preparation may not avoid a relapse after rehab. When this happens, you will need to know what to do.


Dealing with a Relapse After Rehab


For many, there will be the feeling of shame and failure. Such feelings are understandable, but really out of place. Most relapses occur within the first 90 days of leaving the rehab program and getting off the alcohol or drugs. This is why you should consider at least a three-month program to help you deal with the temptation of your addiction


The first step when a relapse occurs is to stay calm and understand that everything you have strived for is not lost. This means you need to do the following.


Keep Your Head: A slip or even a full-blown re-entry into your old addiction is not the end of the world. In fact, at least one slip is expected to happen, so you should keep a positive outlook. Your goal of being free of your addiction is still there, so go for it.


Keep Attending Individual or Group Therapy Sessions: Keep in mind that substance abuse is a deep-seated addiction. Removing it will take many months, if not years of work. This means that you should continue with your therapy even after you have slipped. However, if you keep regressing it may be time to reevaluate the therapy you are receiving. A change may be in order, but only after you talk to your therapist. You may want to increase our attendance if you are going through a rough time. This will provide plenty of positive reinforcement that will assist you in getting over the temptations and triggers to your addiction.


Attend AA, CA, NA, SLAA or any ‘A’ that helps: Alcoholics Anonymous boasts more than 2 million active members worldwide. The original steps are still intact and many former addicts credit the group with helping them through recovery.


Attend an Intensive Outpatient Program: IOPs may form part of the discharge process for people leaving residential programs, providing a staged move from inpatient, to outpatient, to recovery. For others, it might be the first, and best, choice for addiction treatment. An IOP will have almost the same features as an inpatient program, but with the big difference that the client can stay in their own home.


Cognitive Behavior Therapy: This is a form of therapy that focuses on the triggers to your addiction. Adding this type of therapy can be quite helpful in identifying and either dealing or perhaps avoiding such situations in the future.


Attend a Sober Living Facility: Sober living homes offer safety and support for people recovering from drug or alcohol abuse. You live in a substance-free environment while navigating the responsibilities of life in the real world.


Remember that you may stumble on the way to full recovery. For most who overcome an addiction, they will relapse at least once. So, keep this perspective in mind in case the worst should occur.

References: Relapse After Rehab

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