While many people who enter drug and alcohol rehab leave and live a sober life for the rest of their lives, that isn’t the case for everyone. For some, their trip to rehab is the first of many trips. This is due to a problem known as chronic relapse.
Many factors and situations can lead to chronic relapse. Understanding the cycle of relapse and recovery can go a long way to ultimately preventing experiencing issues with your sobriety in the long-term. It’s important to take a look at what exactly chronic relapse is, how it occurs, and what you can do to actively prevent it from happening to you.
What Is Chronic Relapse?
Chronic relapse is exactly what it sounds like; it occurs when someone continues to relapse after completing rehab. A relapse happens whenever someone who has become sober falls back into addiction again. While this will typically occur within the first 30 to 60 days after leaving rehab, a person can relapse at any point in their life for a variety of reasons.
For individuals who suffer from chronic relapse, standard 30-day treatment is usually not sufficient. The majority of people who suffer from the cycle of chronic relapse require long-term treatment.
Why Do People Relapse?
When a person suffers from addiction, it causes changes in the overall makeup of the brain. This is why it is so difficult to recover from an addiction. The body has grown so dependent on the substance that it can no longer function properly without it.
When someone relapses, there is usually a specific reason or event that leads to it. These reasons are known as triggers. When a trigger occurs, it causes the brain to think that it needs drugs or alcohol again and the body begins craving it. From there, the person has two options: give in to temptation and begin using again, or overpower the craving and prevent it from taking over.
Any number of things can act as a trigger for someone who is in recovery. Some of the most common reasons why people relapse include:
- Family problems
- Some sort of unresolved drama
- Being in a harmful or non-supportive environment
- Failing to perform relapse prevention methods learned during rehab
- Continuing to hang around the people you used to use with
- Suffering from post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS
- Major life event that can cause stress
- Lack of accountability or responsibility
- Suffering from co-occurring disorders
- Not properly completing treatment
- Lack of mental will power
It’s important to remember that someone can relapse for any number of reasons. In some cases, none of the reasons listed above might even factor into the relapse. Some people might relapse for another reason or what might seem like no reason at all.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Relapse
Everyone’s addiction and their subsequent journey to recovery are different. For many, all it takes is one time in rehab to get back on the right path and live a healthy and sober life. But for others, that first trip to rehab is the beginning of a long and bumpy road.
Below are some of the common signs and symptoms that either you or someone you know might be suffering from chronic relapse:
- Going to rehab for others and not for yourself
- Getting kicked out of rehab for using during treatment
- There’s a constant struggle to either get sober or stay sober
- Failing to complete treatment, even after multiple attempts
- Having the tools to stay sober but not implementing them
- The thought of sobriety brings on feelings of hopelessness
- Refusal to look in the mirror and address addiction-related issues
- Increased dishonesty and other such issues
Dishonesty is one of the biggest signs of chronic relapse, and it is also one of the most common reasons why it happens. In order to be truly successful in recovery, you have to be honest not only with yourself but with others.
Identifying and acknowledging that you have a problem is a major step in the recovery process. Without acknowledging or admitting that you have a problem you will never truly be able to recover because in your mind you don’t really have a problem.
The Characteristics Of Someone Who Suffers From Chronic Relapse
While people struggling with chronic relapse might be frustrated or confused as to why it is happening, those around them and those who for them are also suffering. This includes family members, friends, and other loved ones. There are three main characteristics when it comes to talking about a chronic relapser.
They Have Gone To Treatment Multiple Times Unsuccessfully
As we mentioned earlier, someone who suffers from chronic relapse will likely need something more than the standard 30-day treatment program. Their addiction is at a level that requires care that is more intensive and long-term.
Unfortunately, many people don’t know this or aren’t told this. As a result, they might find themselves going in for treatment multiple times with little or no success. What can make this even more frustrating is that they might leave treatment and think they are finally better, only to relapse weeks, months, or even years down the line.
They Have Figured Out How To Manipulate the System
Another common characteristic of someone who chronically relapses is knowing how to manipulate the system in their favor. Since they have gone to rehab multiple times, they know exactly what to say to appease the person listening. This can be a therapist, a treatment professional, or even a family member or loved one.
These individuals know exactly what to do and say to convince everyone around them that this time is different and they finally “got it”. Unfortunately, all they are doing is throwing everyone off the scent while they continue to use alcohol or drugs.
Their Family Members Have Given Up
Over time, chronic relapsing doesn’t just take a toll on the person who is relapsing, but also those around that person. They have been to treatment so many times that their loved ones will begin to wonder if there is even any hope left for them and their sobriety. This can cause added stress and resentment in the household which can ultimately result in a trigger that can cause the person to begin using again, or to continue if they were trying to stop.
Treating Relapse: Finding Hope and Help With Professional Rehab
While sobriety might seem hopeless for the person suffering and those around him or her, the good news is there are ways to treat chronic relapse and help prevent it from happening again in the future. Here are some of the ways that you can not only treat relapse but also try and prevent it from coming back down the line.
Long-term or Extended Treatment
As we talked about before, when it comes to chronic relapsers, the standard 30-day treatment just simply does not work for them. For someone suffering from chronic relapse, they need to enter into a long-term or extended treatment program. It’s important to find a facility that offers these longer treatment programs.
For someone suffering from repeated relapses, transitioning into a sober living home or halfway house might be ideal after long-term treatment has been completed. Transitioning into one of these facilities can be a great way to continue to practice the methods you learned while in treatment to maintain sobriety in a helpful and supportive environment. In addition, many of these facilities provide continued access to group meetings, support groups, and therapy sessions.
Accepting Accountability For Your Actions
Nobody can force you to use drugs or alcohol. In the same sense, nobody can force you to stop using either. Although addiction is impossible for you to control on your own, you get to make the choice to change. Without accepting that and holding yourself accountable for your actions you will never truly obtain your sobriety.
A great way to accept accountability is by attending and participating in therapy sessions and support group meetings such as AA or NA. Setting up a support system for yourself can go a long way in preventing another relapse when something happens that might cause you to want to abuse substances.
Do You Suffer From Chronic Relapse?
No one wants to suffer from addiction. No one wants to continue to suffer through relapsing either. That’s why it is so important to get the help you need and learn ways to prevent relapsing in the future.
If you or someone you know suffers from chronic relapse and could benefit from a treatment program specifically designed to treat constantly relapsing, contact us at Free by the Sea today. It is our goal to get everyone who walks through our doors the help that they need whether they are seeing us for the first time or have been with us before.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.