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Is Relapse Normal?

It is sometimes suggested that relapse is a normal part of recovery. What this refers to is the idea that it can take people a number of attempts before they are finally able to break away from addiction for good. It is relatively rare that somebody with a serious addiction will be able to break away from this habit as soon as he or she decides to. The more common scenario is that the person will make a number of different attempts at recovery before finally managing to achieve their goal. In many instances, the person will only be able to finally break away from addiction after they have sought out help such as rehab.

Relapse is Not a Sign that the Individual is a Hopeless Case

When people relapse after a period of being sober, it can lead them to become despondent. The suffering of addiction will often appear even more unbearable after the person has tasted some sobriety. The fact that the person failed to remain free of alcohol or drugs can cause them to worry that they might be a hopeless case, and that there is no real chance of them ever being able to break away from addiction for good. The reality is though, that it is common for people to relapse a number of times before they finally manage to achieve sobriety. The trick is for the person to be able to pick him or herself up and once again commit to a life of abstinence. So long as the individual is fully committed to a life free of addiction they will eventually succeed.

The Myth that Relapse is a Normal Part of Recovery

While it is certainly true that it is usual for people to relapse a number of times before they finally become sober, this should not be taken to mean that this is desirable behaviour. The problem is that many people who fall into addiction will hear the claim, “relapse is a normal part of recovery,” and they will see this as a green light to keep returning to alcohol or drugs. When this person is asked why they relapsed, they may even claim that what they are doing is normal. They are using the commonness of this type of misfortune as a justification to keep on abusing mind-altering substances.

There is never any justification for relapse. When the person returns to alcohol or drugs they are gambling with death, and there is no guarantee that they will ever be able to stop drinking or using drugs again. By returning to this behaviour, the individual will only be increasing his or her own suffering. They will also be causing a great deal of pain for other people – their loved ones may even find it impossible to ever trust the individual again because of their return to addiction.

Relapse is Not Inevitable

The best situation is when a person makes a determined effort to give up alcohol or drugs and achieves success first time. This scenario is entirely possible, and it is what people should be aiming for when they make the decision to quit. This is because the sooner the person can enter long-term recovery, the sooner they can really begin to get the benefits of a life free from addiction. There are things that the person can do in order to help ensure that they avoid repeated relapse.

Here are a few tips that should mean that the person is able to stop their alcohol or drug abuse without the need for relapse:

  • One way that the individual can reduce the likelihood that they are going to relapse is by entering a detox. This is because the majority of people who do fall back into addiction will do so within the first few days of their quit when they are dealing with withdrawal symptoms. By entering a detox facility, the individual will have a much better chance of making it through this period. The symptoms of withdrawal are rarely that bad, but the fact that the individual knows that they can end their discomfort by just drinking or using drugs proves to be a strong temptation. When the person is in a detox they are somewhat protected from this temptation, and there will be pharmaceuticals and other treatments that can make the withdrawal process easier. Once the person has made it through this delicate stage of withdrawals their chances of staying sober long term will greatly increase.
  • The main reason for why people relapse within the first year of recovery is that they feel unable to cope with life. There are a number of reasons for why this is the case. Most individuals who fall into addiction do so at a young age and this means that they fail to develop the normal coping mechanism that the high functioning adult will pick up as they head into adulthood. This means that the person feels overwhelmed when they become sober. Another reason for why people may struggle when they first become sober is that the reasons for why they fell into addiction in the first place will still be there. In order to be better prepared for life in recovery, and to develop the coping skills needed to deal with this, it can be a real benefit for the individual to spend some time in rehab. This will provide them with the tools they need to achieve long-term recovery.
  • It is vital that the individual removes any ambivalence they might have about recovery. They need to be 100% committed or there is a real risk that they will relapse back to addiction. So long as the person holds onto even the slightest hope that they will ever be able to drink or use drugs safely their recovery will be in danger. Nothing less than full commitment to recover will lead to permanent abstinence.
  • The person who is serious about breaking away from addiction needs to make this their number one priority in life. This means that they will not allow anything get in the way of their escape from substance abuse – the person understands that if they lose their sobriety they will lose everything else anyway.

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