Understanding Your Recovery Journey

Knowing whether you need to go back to a treatment center depends on whether you’ve had a “slip” or if you have fully relapsed and are using again on a regular basis.

The most important factor in your decision to return to rehab should always be your personal health and safety.

Relapsing during the early stages of recovery is common, and many people who do so are able to bounce back and regain control of their sobriety. However, relapsing can be dangerous — once you stop using and lose your tolerance, you’re more likely to experience negative side effects or overdose when you use again.

Relapse rates among recovering alcoholics are between 50 and 90 percent in the first four years after rehab. For recovering drug addicts, rates are between 40 and 60 percent.

- The National Institute on Drug Abuse

Given these daunting statistics, newly recovering addicts are encouraged to protect their sobriety by utilizing aftercare support services and 12-step programs. Knowing how to respond if a relapse happens is also incredibly important when it comes to maintaining long-term recovery.

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Do I Need Treatment Again?

Depending on the severity of your return to substance abuse, you may need to go back to rehab. There are two general ways to evaluate whether you need to go back: the length and intensity of your drug or alcohol abuse. There’s a difference between a single slip and a full relapse.

  • A “slip” is defined as a short-lived event — usually only a day — when the substance is used for a brief period of time. With a slip, the person realizes the risk they’ve taken and stops using again before sliding back into addiction.
  • A relapse is a far more serious event in which the individual returns to a pattern of drug or alcohol abuse over a period of days or weeks. During a relapse, the person may isolate themselves, skip 12-step meetings and avoid their sponsors.

In the event that a slip has occurred, you can usually get back on the right track by going to a meeting, discussing the slip with a sponsor or a counselor and avoiding your triggers. Seeking support and redoubling your efforts to remain sober are imperative.

However, if you’ve relapsed, it’s important to stop using and get help right away.

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Why Didn’t Treatment Work The First Time?

Relapse doesn’t mean the treatment program didn’t work — it  simply means the treatment plan needs reinforcement or adjustment. Falling back into old habits is easy, as it’s a common response to cravings, boredom, triggers and doubt.

Addiction is a lifelong disease that must be actively controlled and managed everyday during recovery.

When someone relapses, their addiction is often worse than before. The feelings of shame and guilt further drive the substance abusing behavior in an effort to numb any uncomfortable emotions. Each day the person continues using makes recovery more difficult. Relapse must be taken seriously, as a return to drug or alcohol abuse can have dangerous — and even deadly — consequences.

No one likes the idea of having to return to rehab, but it can quite possibly save your life. Please reach out to a treatment provider if you need help finding a rehab after relapse.

Rehab, Round Two

If relapse occurs, it’s time to get into an alcohol or drug rehab right away. It’s important to get back into a treatment program quickly, as it will immediately cut off access to the substance and help the person reclaim control over their recovery.

You have to be completely honest with yourself and trust the process. The right program is essential and AA and NA may not work for everyone — it’s up to you to decide what you need to get and stay sober. Stay connected and stay humble. Once you get cocky, you are at risk of relapsing but if you do relapse, don’t give up, just get back on track and believe in what you are doing.

- Heidi D., in recovery

Because programs vary in their philosophies and treatments offered, finding a center that takes a different approach than the last one you went to may produce better results.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a mode of therapy commonly used to treat addictions. CBT is very useful when it comes to identifying how a person responds to certain triggers — or people, places and things that fuel their desire to use drugs or alcohol. Learning how to respond differently to these triggers, or how to avoid them in the first place, is something that can be worked on during a return visit to rehab.

It’s also important to look back at what event or emotions may have led to the relapse and learn how to properly deal with these in the future. It may be that you need to find new ways to cope with stress by exploring relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga. All of these practices can help recovering addicts manage stressful situations once the treatment program has ended.

Going Back to Rehab Does Not Mean You Failed

Having to return to rehab should not be considered a failure, but rather an act of courage. What matters is that you realized the dangers of falling back into addiction and valued your life enough to make a positive change.

You’ve picked yourself up once before, and you can do it again.

Having experienced a period of sobriety before, recovering addicts often leave their second stint in rehab more dedicated to their recovery and determined to sustain that for a lifetime. Going back to rehab after a relapse will give you your best chance at achieving a lasting recovery according to research.

If you or a loved one has relapsed, there is help available. Contact a treatment provider today to find available treatment centers.