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What is Chronic Relapse and How Do You Break the Cycle of Addiction?

When you live with substance abuse or addiction, the road to recovery can be challenging. Even after completing treatment, many people have at least one relapse–a return to substance use after a period of sobriety.

While relapse can be a normal part of a person’s recovery journey, it can also feel frustrating to the addicted person and their loved ones. For many, a relapse feels like a setback that may prevent them from reaching their goal of lifelong recovery. 

A relapse doesn’t mean the end of the road. In fact, people who have a relapse can think about what happened before the relapse and identify where they may need more support or treatment. Learning from a relapse can prevent another one in the future.

But what about people who have multiple relapses and can’t seem to commit to recovery, no matter what? Some people in recovery live with chronic relapse. This condition can lead to frustration and hopelessness and cause people to give up on their goal of sobriety.

Understanding the causes of chronic relapse and learning strategies to manage it can help you overcome the condition and put your addiction in the past once and for all.

If you or someone you love require addiction treatment, contact the Mandala Healing Center specialists today. 

What is Chronic Relapse?

While relapse is often part of an addicted person’s recovery process, some struggle with multiple, repeated relapses. Chronic relapse disease is a condition that leads people to experience relapse after relapse. Many people with chronic relapse feel hopeless about their chances of achieving lifelong sobriety. Friends and family may become worn out and lose hope that the addicted person can ever recover. 

After a period of abstinence from drugs and alcohol, people may lose their tolerance to these substances. This can make a relapse a dangerous, sometimes life-threatening event. 

What Factors Make Chronic Relapse More Likely?

Chronic relapse can be caused by several physical, emotional, behavioral, and environmental factors. Understanding and identifying these may help you avoid chronic relapse.

Physical Illness

The effects of physical illness–stress, pain, discomfort–may make it more likely that someone will relapse. Why? Drugs and alcohol can temporarily dull or relieve the symptoms of a physical illness. When people use substances to manage pain and discomfort, it is called “self-medicating.” If people do not have the treatment, support, and tools they need to manage their physical illness in a healthy way, they may turn to drugs and alcohol. 

Mental Illness

People self-medicate the symptoms of mental illness, too. About half the people treated for addiction also live with a diagnosable mental illness. Untreated or unmanaged mental illness increases the risk of chronic relapse. 

Lack of Formal Treatment

Addiction is a complex condition that requires professional, comprehensive treatment. If you attempt to go “cold turkey” or rely on alternative methods that aren’t evidence-based, you will be more likely to experience chronic relapse. 

Not Enough Time in Treatment

People who attend short treatment programs–fewer than 90 days– are more likely to experience relapse than those who stay in rehab for a longer period. Why? Addiction treatment needs to address the complex roots of a person’s addiction. Unlike short rehab stays, longer programs allow for enough time to learn and practice new skills and develop healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Not Knowing Your Triggers

Triggers are events, situations, dates, people, and other stimuli that can make people want to use drugs or alcohol. During treatment, you must work to identify your triggers and learn how to avoid or manage them.

Not Preparing for “Real Life”

Many people leave rehab feeling excited and confident about their new sober lifestyle. Then, reality hits. Bills, arguments, boredom, work, stress–the challenges of life are still there, even if the person feels like they’ve changed. It is essential to create an aftercare plan that will keep you engaged in recovery as you navigate your return to “real life.”

Signs of Chronic Relapse Disease

The most obvious sign of chronic relapse disease is multiple relapses. There are other signs of chronic relapse to look out for so that you can identify it and get the help you need to overcome it. These include:

  • Dishonesty
  • Low energy
  • Lack of positivity about recovery
  • Feeling nostalgic about or romanticizing substance use
  • Poor sleep and diet
  • Frequent cravings
  • Isolating
  • Thinking you can use drugs and alcohol again without developing dependence
  • Not participating in therapy, groups, or other recovery support
  • Neglecting physical and mental health
  • Doubting that treatment works

Before these issues lead to a relapse, seek the additional support and treatment you need to keep your recovery on track.

How to Stop Relapsing and Put Substance Abuse Behind You

Being aware of the signs of chronic relapse is a critical first step in overcoming the condition. You can take steps to stop relapsing and set yourself up for a healthier, long-lasting recovery from addiction. These steps include:

  • Attending an evidence-based, professional treatment program
  • Complete a treatment program and follow your aftercare plan
  • Receiving regular medical and mental health care
  • Finding support in the community–a counselor, 12-step program, alumni network, or other group support

One of the most important things you can do to stop relapsing and leave substance abuse in the past is to find a new purpose in your life after treatment. Use the resources and skills you learned in treatment to develop new relationships and healthy habits. 

Most importantly, don’t lose hope that treatment can work. Find a comprehensive treatment program, stick with it, and stay engaged in recovery afterward. There is no shame in going back to rehab after a relapse.

Get Help Now

At Mandala Healing Center, we work closely with each individual to guarantee their needs are met both during and after treatment. With individualized care and evidence-based treatment, you can prevent relapse. 

If you or someone you love require addiction treatment or support during recovery, reach out to the Mandala Healing Center specialists today.