The Age Old Question: Can Chronic Relapsers Ever Really Recover?
A chronic relapser is a substance abuser who has had multiple periods of sobriety, but who relapses after each abstinence period. Chronic relapsers include those who complete treatment and then relapse shortly after discharge. Can chronic relapsers ever really recover?
Many relapsers understand the recovery process and have practiced recovery principles throughout their periods of sobriety. However, they eventually relapse and are then back to step one. In the best case scenario, that person changes their sobriety date and begins the recovery process once again.
Addicts who relapse are not considered failures, nor do they lose the knowledge theyâ€™ve gained through periods of sobriety. However, when relapse occurs, it suggests that there’s a vulnerability in that person’s recovery program. The task is then to pinpoint the vulnerability and take steps to keep it from causing relapse yet again.
Is Relapse a Normal Part of Recovery?
Some believe that relapse is a normal part of recovery; others believe that chronic relapsers cannot make progress in recovery until they stop relapsing. Those who see relapse as part of recovery believe that if someone relapses and then immediately returns to abstinence, all the progress that person has previously made in recovery remains intact. Those who think relapsers can’t progress until they stop relapsing believe that with every relapse, the person loses all previous progress and returns to ground zero. However, everyone agrees that the longer someone remains in relapse mode, the greater the danger and the greater the damage to their growth.
Dangers of Chronic Relapse
Any period of sustained sobriety is a good thing, and the longer the sobriety, the greater the growth. However, when someone becomes a chronic relapser, they expose themselves to great danger with every relapse. For one thing, there is no guarantee that the person will always return to recovery mode. If they do, they remain focused on the early steps of sobriety. Chronic relapsing can cause the person to feel prolonged and intense shame, guilt, failure, and hopelessness, and with every relapse, the craving for and obsession with substances returns in full force.
What Causes Chronic Relapse?
No one knows exactly why some people are chronic relapsers while others are not, but some of the reasons for chronic relapse might include:
o Feelings of ambivalence about recovery
o Getting sober only for others
o An untreated, underlying psychiatric disorder
o Failure to work a recovery program
o Sobriety isn’t the highest priority
Help For Chronic Relapsers
Can chronic relapsers ever really recover? No one knows. Itâ€™s helpful to remember that addiction is a chronic, lifelong illness that can be managed, but not cured. As long as a chronic relapser continues to seek help and is willing to get back into recovery after a relapse, the best treatment is to support that personâ€™s efforts no matter how often they slip.
Treat Any Underlying Physical or Psychiatric Issues
Many substance abusers have underlying physical or psychiatric issues that make it difficult for them to stay sober. If these conditions are treated along with the addiction, the chronic relapser may be able to finally maintain a lasting sobriety.
Consider Long-Term Residential Treatment
Generally speaking, the longer the treatment, the greater the chances for recovery. If a relapser has not yet been in long-term residential treatment, it’s definitely a treatment option worth trying.
Focus on Relapse Prevention
Relapse prevention has to be a strong and ever-present component of a chronic relapser’s recovery program. While relapse prevention is important for everyone in recovery, it is absolutely essential for anyone who is a chronic relapser.