Are you wondering why do addicts relapse?
Let me tell you about my first relapse.
After successfully completing a 90-day program, I had the best of intentions to stay sober. I thought I had put in the work, learned the tools, and was ready to start over. My first mistake was staying in my pre-rehab relationship.
Addicts relapse because using is what they know.
While my significant other was supportive of my recovery, the same old patterns and tensions that existed in the relationship acted as powerful triggers. My brain was still wired to cope with these things in the quickest, most brutally effective way I knew, which was -you guessed it- drugs and alcohol. After 90 days, my obsession to use had not been lifted. I had gone back to school and I remember sitting in class, scanning my classmates’ backpacks, wondering if they had any good prescription drugs. That obsession rendered me essentially a “dry” addict, white-knuckling through each day, trying to conceal the thirst raging within. In such a state, it was only a matter of time.
There were always the major lifestyle stressors; whether it was a job, school, a relationship, or lack of a job or relationship.
Soon I was buying beers (just a few!) from the gas station on the way home from school. I would secretly drink them in the bathroom at home, crush the cans as quietly as possible, and hide them to get rid of later. Such is the sneaky, covert behavior of the addict in relapse mode. My secret didn’t stay secret for long because, well, have you ever tried to silently crush an aluminum can? My significant other quickly caught on and pretty soon my relationship was over. In response to the pain from the breakup, I started drinking with a desperation I can no longer fathom. The drugs soon followed.
I attempted recovery a few more times over the next handful of years.
The relapses that followed were always different but the main elements remained the same. The old friends who were still using. The unsafe environments. There was always dishonesty, sneaking, hiding, and shame. There were always the major lifestyle stressors; whether it was a job, school, a relationship, or lack of a job or relationship. Then there was my inability to cope with the stress.
I have relapsed enough times to know the common themes, at least for myself. I know my warning signs, red flags, and triggers. Addicts relapse because using is what they know. While relapsing is terrifying and disheartening, it does not equate to failure.
Even if you relapse 100 times, you have to find the courage to get yourself back into recovery 101 times.
– LN, JVA Program Graduate
This student’s account of her relapses before our program makes it clear that recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is more than simply stopping. It’s about finding alternatives to coping with stress, learning how to let go of the things and people who bring us back to bad habits, and learning to accept but resolve that void that everyone, addicted or not, feels in their life.
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