Relapse can be a normal and common aspect of the recovery journey. If a patient experiences a relapse, it does not mean that treatment has failed or that treatment specialists have done anything wrong. It simply means that a patient’s treatment plan needs to be adjusted to better fit their current needs and situation.

To get a patient back on track, it is crucial to determine why the release occurred, identify any psychiatric conditions the patient may be suffering from, make the necessary adjustments to their treatment plan, and encourage them to take responsibility for their relapse. Finally, they should provide the patient with the hope and encouragement that they need to take the necessary steps towards regaining their sobriety.

Understanding Why a Relapse Occurred

After a relapse, a patient needs to sit down with a therapist and try to get to the bottom of why they chose to break their sobriety after having gone through treatment. While the reason behind a relapse can be complicated and multi-faceted, there are some common causes for relapse that can be considered. These include:

  • Experiencing a lack of motivation
  • Struggling with isolation or boredom
  • Spending time around places where there will be temptations, such as bars, liquor stores, casinos, or strip clubs
  • Spending time with others who engage in substance use
  • Giving in to peer pressure
  • Suffering from an undiagnosed mental health condition such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD
  • Feeling as if they have control over their addiction and don’t need to follow their treatment plan
  • Struggling with a stressful situation
  • Going through breakup
  • Losing a loved one
  • Being in a support group or having a sponsor that is not the right fit for them

Once the root cause has been identified, the necessary changes can be made to help get the patient back on track.

Adjusting the Treatment Plan

Adjusting a patient’s treatment plan after they have relapsed involves looking at what worked and didn’t work the first time. In some cases, the necessary changes can be relatively simple for the treatment provider to assist with themselves. For example, if the patient relapsed because of an undiagnosed mental health condition, then they may need to be placed on a certain type of medication or connected with a therapist who specializes in treating that condition. Alternatively, if the patient’s current support group or sponsor isn’t working out, the treatment provider can use their resources to connect the patient with a different support group that will better fit their needs.

In other situations, adjusting the treatment plan will involve having to persuade the patient to make changes in how they view their recovery and are going about their lives. If they have lost motivation surrounding their recovery, they need to be reminded of why they chose to get sober in the first place and all the advantages that come with it. If they are spending time with the wrong crowd or dealing with peer pressure, they need to be encouraged to seek out a friend group that is supportive and respectful of their recovery journey. If the individual relapsed because they are struggling with withdrawal symptoms, then they may need to come in for in-patient treatment where those symptoms can be effectively managed.

No matter what the patient’s situation is, it is important to remind them that they are not a bad person because they relapsed. Additionally, just because they relapsed does not mean that long-term recovery is no longer possible for them.

Preventing Future Relapse 

Relapse happens mentally before it happens physically. Treatment providers can help their patients avoid another relapse by helping them to recognize the common warning signs that lead to relapse. Some examples include: 

  • Skipping support group meetings or counseling
  • Isolating oneself from others
  • Not taking the time to engage in fun sober activities
  • Struggling with stress, hopelessness, or low self-esteem
  • Doubting the recovery process
  • Glamorizing past alcohol or drug use 
  • Failing to practice regular self-care
  • Minimizing the consequences of turning back to substance use
  • Falsely thinking they have control over their use and can limit it
  • Making excuses to use 
  • Feeling urges to use 
  • Associating with people who frequently engage in substance use 
  • Experiencing sudden changes in behavior

If a patient can recognize the signs of relapse while it is still only in the mental stage, they can take the steps that they need to get additional treatment before reaching the physical stage of relapse. This may involve attending support group meetings more regularly or going to an in-patient care facility.

While relapse is discouraging, is a normal and common part of the recovery journey. It doesn’t mean that treatment has failed; it simply means that a patient’s treatment plan needs to be adjusted to better fit their needs. The first step in this process is sitting down with the patient and determining the root cause of why the relapse occurred. It could be due to a loss of motivation, an undiagnosed mental health condition, or simply hanging around the wrong people. Once the root cause has been identified, a treatment provider can work with the patient to regain motivation and make the necessary changes in their life to get back on track. They can also help them prevent another relapse by recognizing the common warning signs that lead to it. If you or someone you know is currently struggling with a substance use disorder, our team at Dream Recovery is here to help. Call (949) 732-1960 to learn more.

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