The Relapse Problem

It’s hard to get accurate national statistics when it comes to patient relapse after going through rehab. The general consensus per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is that relapse rates often range between 40%-60%, nationally.

Drug addiction is extraordinarily tough to defeat. People who suffer from drug addiction often are genetically or physically predisposed to addiction. They also may live around “triggers” which encourage their drug use. Additionally, they may have been raised in an environment where drug use was the “solution” to difficult factors in life.

For example, let’s say a young man has been using drugs to resolve stress in his life since he was fourteen. He might have used cigarettes, alcohol, prescription medications, or pot. Now he has graduated from high school and is faced with the option of working in a minimum wage job with little prospect for advancement on the horizon. In the past, he has turned to drugs in order to face finals at school or deal with a bad break up. He turns to drugs once again. His abuse spirals out of control. His parents end up sending him to drug rehab.

Continuing our example, let’s say he went to a 30 day detox and rehab program. For many drugs, this is barely enough time to fully detox. However, he is off the drugs and is thrown back into the exact situation from which he left. He still needs a job. He still has bills that need to be paid. He still needs to grow into his own independence. If none of these factors are addressed fully at rehab, or if he left rehab before he was ready to resolve his addiction permanently, he is very likely to return to his old ways. That is one example but is all too common.

What are some common mistakes former addicts make that lead to relapse and how can you avoid them?

Mistakes Leading to Relapse

1. Loneliness

In rehab, you are surrounded by supportive staff and patients all helping each other. When you leave, it can feel like there is a void of friends or supportive individuals. You may feel all alone, trying to fight addiction by yourself. This can cause a person to turn back to their “friends” with whom they abused drugs and alcohol previously.

Some excellent ways to fight loneliness just out of rehab are:

– Participate in counseling and your rehab center’s aftercare program.

– Take classes at a local community college.

– Go to the gym or get involved with sports teams.

– Volunteer with local charities. There are so many worthy organizations that need help. Find out who they are and work with them.

– Find a group activity to participate in. There are many activities that your city may put on – like a picnic on National Outdoor Day, a hike for Earth Day, a marathon, and more. Many of these are free or volunteer activities.

– Get involved in a new hobby like cooking, ceramics, knitting, dance, or learning a new language. Take classes for that hobby and meet like-minded individuals.

– Get involved in the arts or music.

2. Expecting too much, too fast

Once out of rehab, you are seeing the world through drug-free eyes. It may feel like you can conquer all your problems in one big step. Instead of trying to solve every problem you have ever had immediately post-rehab, try taking it one step at a time. Set progressive goals. Accomplish one, then move onto the next.

For example:

Goal 1 – Get my sister to speak with me again (whether it is an angry communication from her or even a monosyllabic answer to a question).

Goal 2 – Get a job.

Once you have your goals set, work toward them each day and take stock of your progress at the end of each week.

3. Refusing to communicate

It is disappointing to realize that you may have friends and family that are still upset with you after rehab. However, just because you have had your own realizations about your drug abuse does not mean that your family and friends automatically know what you went through, what you now understand, and where you are now mentally and spiritually.

Sometimes after rehab, the former addict gets quite upset with friends or family that still do not trust him or her. They may use again just to spite those friends or family. The best way to approach this problem is to take a minute and remember why they are upset. Talk to your aftercare advisor, your support group, or other family members and decide on the best plan to regain their trust. Finally, put that plan into action.

It can be hard to rebuild a life, but it is very worth it.

4. No longer reaching out for help

Just because you have graduated rehab doesn’t mean you won’t need help with anything. In fact, now that rehab is over, you have a whole new set of challenges. The best way to meet those challenges and come out on top is to reach out and get help with them.

Sometimes former addicts faced with the need for help fseel like they are already too much of a burden as it is. This is understandable. But, realize that those people whom you may ask for more help are the people that most want you to succeed. They will likely welcome the opportunity to help you succeed in your goals to live a clean, sober, healthy, and happy life.

5. Giving up

It’s easy to give in to apathy or feel as though life after rehab is too hard. Realize that billions of people in the world encounter situations in life they don’t know how to overcome all of the time. If we all gave up, the human race would be finished. Most any obstacle can be overcome if you reach out to friends, family, support groups, your aftercare advisor, and others who are interested in seeing you succeed. Keep in mind, there are still plenty of people of goodwill in the world – and in your neighborhood!