Relapse is part of the process of recovery, it is also now seen standard rather than an exception in the journey of recovery from addiction. Reflecting on relapse can enable us to create better strategies for dealing with cravings and for identifying possible environments that may trigger desires to use. Reframing this experience by learning to take the positives from the event and not see it as a disaster or failure, but as an opportunity for learning more by identifying more ways of coping.
Often it is likely that people who are in early recovery tend to be most at risk of relapse. Creating new choices and learning new responses and behaviours can take time. The first few months away from alcohol and drug abuse are usually a rollercoaster in many ways. It can feel overwhelming, emotional support and improving coping mechanisms are important. Many people are tempted back to their old way of coping or dealing with the challenges that they face.
Learning more about triggers whatever they might be, for example certain environments that might evoke memories, or situations that are stressful can raise difficult feelings which in turn can trigger cravings and create an environment that may risk relapse. True recovery is a long-term process with a shift in thought process and behaviour. This is achieved by commitment, a few knock downs and an undertaking of personal development and self awareness.
Recovery is more firmly established after a year or two, but the risk of relapse remains. Those who give up addiction will usually have hit a painful rock bottom first of all. As the years go by the memory of this pain begins to fade. The individual may begin to wonder if things were really that bad. Those who were alcoholic may wonder if their years away from this drug have made them strong enough to now be able to drink socially. Such thinking can unfortunately progress towards complacency and unwanted consequences.
From my experience of working within the addiction field, is that, change can happen when a person is ready to change and prepared to try. A major emphasis in therapy is examining why change may be difficult and understanding how to get past the roadblocks that stand in the way blocking desired outcomes. It can take time, addiction changes brains, and it takes time to change brains back.
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