The first four years of sobriety are the most dangerous years for relapse. Relapse rates for addicts range from 50% to 90% in those volatile first four years of recovery. Many addicts are unaware of this fact and feel intense guilt and remorse when they “slip” and use. It’s natural to be alarmed about a slip, and it’s always wise to immediately seek out the help of your support group, meetings, and a counselor after a slip. Whether or not you should go back into rehab immediately following a slip is a debate that has probably been on the mind of just about every addict who’s ever slipped and immediately regretted it.
Relapse is different from a slip. A slip might be a night out drinking or one-time use of a drug you were addicted to. The next day, you would go to a meeting or immediately stop use again. Some addicts slip and immediately get right back into a meeting and begin the process of recovery anew. Relapse is a much more sinister beast. An example of relapse would be going to a party where drugs and alcohol are available, using during that party, and immediately waking up the next day and beginning a search for more drugs and alcohol. The pattern would continue until you’re full-blown into the life you were in before.
IS IT A SLIP OR A RELAPSE?
If you’re asking yourself whether you need to go back to rehab, something has obviously gone wrong during your recovery. It’s a terrific sign that you realize that and are aware that you have a problem again. If you’ve only been to treatment once, though, and believe that one-time use following by remorse and a stronger sobriety warrants a trip to rehab, the good news is you may not need to go back into rehab.
Slips happen in very early recovery sometimes, and though they’re alarming and a cause for concern, they might be helped by going to more meetings, talking to a sponsor, going back into therapy sessions, or relying on friends and family for support during your disappointment. If the slip caused massive craving, but you’re not giving in, and you’re working a program of recovery again, inpatient treatment might not be needed. A full-blown relapse will be different and might be a signal that it’s time to go back to rehab.
WORKING THROUGH THE DISAPPOINTMENT
Many addicts mistakenly think that going to treatment alone will be enough to keep them sober. They might not have a strong relapse prevention plan laid out. Another enemy of addicts is the fact that in early recovery, many addicts feel so good and so strong that they don’t believe relapse is possible. When a slip happens, they may feel so much remorse and disappointment that they feel the need to rush back into rehab to get help. In some cases, this is the right instinct. A short stay in rehab can help to refocus and prevent a slip from becoming a relapse, one reason that so many addicts who slip will go back to a short-term rehab temporarily before heading back out into the world.
In recovery, it’s best not to take anything likely. If you slip and go right back to meetings, talk to a sponsor, get help from your support network, and get counseling, and still feel like you’re about to use again, then it is wise to get into rehab before this happens. Don’t take anything lightly, even just a slip. For people who risk losing employment or families, if they use, it can be even more of an occasion for despair, and that might make the urge to use even stronger.
ASSESSING THE RISK OF FULL-BLOWN RELAPSE
After you’ve slipped, if you feel like you’re going to start using again on a permanent basis, it’s best to call a rehab right away and get yourself into one. The golden rule is: better safe than sorry. As an addict who had some sober time behind them, and who went through a treatment program, you know yourself better than anyone else. You know if you’re craving. You know if you’re going to be able to use outpatient methods to work past a “slip” and move on into a greater quality of sobriety.
Some people are able to make sense of a “slip,” but a full-blown relapse is something altogether. If you’re back using again every day, unable to stop, finding yourself in the same situation you were in before going to treatment the first time, it’s time to consider going back into rehab seriously. While it may be difficult to leave behind what you’ve built up for yourself in sobriety after a relapse, it’s going to be even more challenging to realize that you allowed the relapse to become a full-blown addiction again. Wanting to get help early into a relapse saves many addicts from the same horrors that they got sober from.
A slip may be fixable with meetings, counseling, and support, but a full-blown relapse should seriously make you consider calling a treatment center and restarting your journey into recovery. The fact is that you’re wiser this time around. You know there’s help out there, and all you have to do is pick up a phone to get started. You don’t have to go back into addiction and suffer the way you did the first time. You’ve learned something about yourself now, the triggers, the things that may have led to the relapse.
Preventing relapse is the goal of every treatment center. They attempt to instill values and principles that will help you when you’re back out in the world, but the truth is that addiction is a powerful condition. If it weren’t, so many people wouldn’t struggle with it. Once you’ve been exposed to drug and alcohol abuse, it sometimes becomes a real battle to stay away from the things that ruin your life. Craving is a powerful phenomenon, and the majority of addicts will relapse even after treatment. You’re not alone in that.
The great news is that just like the first time, help is only a phone call away. You can admit powerlessness all over again, reach out to a rehab for help, and begin rebuilding your life again. Hopefully, the relapse hasn’t gone on for too long, but even if it has, it’s never late to get help for an addiction. Reach out and take hold of a lifeline again. A rehab will give you time to be away from the temptations of the outside world, and in the meantime, you can build a stronger program of recovery for yourself so that next time, you may not give in to the pressure or cravings again. Above all, remember that a relapse does not signal failure on your part or the part of the treatment center. It signals that drug addiction and alcoholism are indeed cunning, baffling, and powerful. When you get back in rehab, you can defeat addiction all over again and feel proud of it.