Mark Twain once observed that “quitting smoking is easy; I’ve done it a thousand times.”
Celebrities and regular folks alike will joke about relapsing into bad habits when they’re trying to recover from addictions to tobacco, alcohol, and other more dangerous substances. This might lead one to think that relapse is a standard part of addiction recovery. Substance abuse recovery programs are realistic and recognize the risk of relapse, but no serious recovery program considers relapse as part of the program itself.
Relapse is Not Recovery
Recovery programs will watch for signs of relapse while an addict is in treatment, but those signs and a relapse itself are not part of the overall recovery. Your recovery counselors will take note, for example, if you start talking about the good times that you had while you were addicted to the exclusion of the bad, if you make increasingly frequent references to friends and acquaintances who enabled or encouraged your addiction, or more generally if your attitudes toward your recovery change or you begin to get defensive about your addiction problems. If your recovery is going well but you hit an inevitable rough patch, you might start thinking about going back to your old ways for just a day or two. This type of relapse isn’t unusual and it may not be unexpected while you’re in recovery, but it has nothing to do with the recovery process itself.
Mark Twain’s observations and celebrity relapse stories in popular culture might lead you to believe that everyone relapses at least once or twice while in recovery. You should abandon this misconception at the outset of your rehab because, while not uncommon, relapses are not inevitable. Your recovery counselors know that the stresses and temptations that led to your addiction will probably never disappear. Managing those stresses and temptations is an important part of the recovery. You should not confuse the continued existence of those stresses and temptations with a relapse into addictive behavior.
Prevent Relapse with Proper Planning
If you do experience a relapse while you are in recovery, you should never conclude that your rehab and recovery has failed or that you lack motivation to complete your recovery. Successful recovery is often a lifelong process. Taking steps toward recovery, however small, is a mark of your progress. Relapse is only a roadblock, and is never a part of the recovery itself nor an indication that your recovery is not going to succeed.
If you start a recovery program with the mindset that your recovery will include a relapse or two, you are setting yourself up for a potentially longer and more difficult rehab and recovery program. If you think that recovery and relapse are intertwined, you are giving yourself an excuse to fall back into addictive patterns and behavior. You are also denying your own accountability for your recovery and failing to take charge of your own health. Your recovery counselor will help acknowledge and recognize the risk of relapse while you are in recovery and he or she will give you the tools to maintain the separation between your recovery and those risks. If you are in a recovery program and feel that you are on the verge of a relapse, or you cannot distinguish between recovery and relapse, please contact our staff at Hired Power at your earliest convenience at 800-910-9299.