Many people unfamiliar with addiction assume that recovery is complete when a person finishes detox and/or treatment at a rehab facility, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our team likes to remind patients that recovery is a lifelong process – their time with us is just the beginning. Some people, then, may be wondering whether relapse is a normal part of the recovery process.

Relapse refers to what happens when a person in recovery begins abusing a substance again after a period of not using. This can occur weeks, months, or even years after spending time in rehab, though 40 to 60 percent of people with a substance use disorder will relapse within the first year of treatment. Though relapse is extremely common, it is not considered a “normal” or “natural” part of the recovery process. Many rehab centers, like ours, focus on helping patients address their triggers and practice healthy habits so they can avoid potential relapse.

Why Do People Relapse?

If a relapse isn’t an expected part of the recovery process, why do people do it? It’s important to first understand addiction as a chronic disease, which means managing it requires patience, time, and commitment. Drugs and alcohol can cause chemical changes over time in the brain that make it challenging for people to control their behaviors or urges, which is why people can relapse even after going a length of time without using or drinking.

There are a few common causes of relapse which are also referred to as triggers. Triggers can be memories, places, experiences, people, and other things that trigger memories – often positive – of drug or alcohol use in the individual. These triggers can create cravings and encourage the individual to begin using again.

Some common triggers include:

  • Mental health issues: People who are struggling with both addiction and mental health issues, also known as dual diagnosis, can’t treat one issue without treating the other. If a person doesn’t get treated for their mental disorder but “recovers” from addiction, there’s a greater likelihood that they will relapse.
  • Going to places where the individual used to drink or get high: Returning to places you associate drugs and alcohol with, like a bar, party, or someone’s house, can bring up memories and cause intense cravings.
  • Seeing people the individual used to party or get high with: Not only can seeing an old friend bring up memories of the good times you had drinking or using drugs together, but this also can create opportunities for peer pressure to occur.
  • Going through difficult experiences: People who haven’t developed healthy coping habits may feel compelled to drink or use drugs when they go through traumatic or intense life experiences, such as a breakup, being fired, or losing a loved one.

What to Do After Relapse

Relapse is common and it’s important for individuals to recognize that a mistake does not mean they’ve failed. These instances often signal a need for treatment, whether that be revisiting a treatment plan you created with your rehab center or starting a new treatment plan. Support groups, behavioral therapy, and engaging in therapies like yoga or meditation have all helped people prevent relapse or recover after a relapse.

Why Professional Treatment Is Important

Recovery is about so much more than quitting the use of drugs or alcohol. Addiction involves the development of toxic coping mechanisms, negative thoughts or feelings, and destructive behaviors, all of which must be addressed and treated in addition to ridding the body of toxins. At October Road, we offer a variety of treatment options for patients who check into our rehab center, including therapy and counseling, peer support services, outpatient support services, and more.

Our team wants to prepare our patients for the long road that lies ahead, and to do that, we give them the tools and skills they need to understand their triggers and overcome other obstacles. At our small facility, you can expect to work closely with our staff to create a recovery plan that serves your needs.

Contact October Road today at (888) 201-5086 or fill out our online form if you’re interested in the outpatient drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs we have to offer. Our team helps patients in Asheville and surrounding areas in North Carolina.

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