There are a few conditions that are considered high risk for relapse. In the line of work that New Roads specializes in, the reality of relapse is something that can be uncomfortable to talk about, but it is part of being prepared, as well. Making a relapse prevention plan may seem like you are planning to fail, but it is something that is statistically very difficult to avoid when recuperating from chronic relapsing diseases. Finding out that your loved one has a problem or accepting that you have a problem can be difficult. Coming to terms with the reality of the situation and finding help are huge in the recovery process. The next steps in recovery are hard, but having a plan in place for relapse and understanding the nature of relapse is crucial to stay the path of recovery.
Reality Check – The Life of Addiction
Addiction is a very complex issue. It encompasses the whole realm of our beings and takes hold of everything we hold dear. Getting control of our minds, our bodies and all the systems that surround ourselves can be a difficult task. There are emotions, memories, people, circumstances and stressors that trigger behaviors that are damaging to the recovery process. The reality is that some times reality itself is a trigger. Relapses happen for a number of reasons despite some people’s best and most honest efforts. Even with a relapse prevention plan in place, recovery can be difficult and plans are hard to stick by without a great deal of effort and concentration.
An article written by Eli Saslo and published this week by the Washington Post covered the heartbreaking journey of Amanda. Her addiction had rocked her life for over a decade and was beginning to reach the breaking point for her support system. Throughout the article, it covers statistics on addiction and this story of Amanda and her life with addiction. In the United States today, we are truly in the throws of a historic epidemic with opioids.
350 people starting on heroin every day, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; another 4,105 emergency-room visits; another 79 people dead. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States — worse than guns, car crashes or suicides. Heroin abuse has quadrupled in the past decade. Most addicts are introduced to heroin through prescription pain pills, and doctors now write more than 200 million opiate prescriptions each year.
“How’s Amanda?” by Eli Saslo, Published by the Washington Post July 23, 2016
Amanda is a thirty something with no education, a broken family, broken trust with her parents, a past filled with deception and now she is on the precipice of a treatment that would possibly help curb her cravings. Her relapse prevention plan is a high risk but she has exhausted her efforts. Despite her potential wasted on drugs, she has found the last place that she can rely upon for a small amount of support. Amanda finds herself in yet another hospital suffering from the effects of her addiction.
The story of Amanda is just one that sings the saddest of songs of some one who has struggled through addiction for nearly a decade and is now rounding out the end of her life, too soon. Statistics prove the life of a heroin addict is greatly at danger after 10 years of use. There are many stories that tell us of lost hope and a life wasted on chasing a high. The fact that our brain chemistry and genetics can predispose some to agonizing struggle with addiction is a hard reality.
Understanding Relapse Rates
As depressing as these scenarios sound, there is a great deal of hope for those suffering from the effects of addiction. Relapse is a very common response to treatments for bipolar disorder, drugs, alcohol and other mental health conditions. Other chronic relapsing diseases even include high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes. In each case, the relapse situation could cause great danger to the person; but that doesn’t necessarily stop the relapse cycle from continuing.
Eric Schmidt describes how one parent urged him to educated people about the expectation for relapses. “The truth of the matter is that addiction [and] substance use disorders are chronic relapsing diseases.” Preparing for these scenarios can help educate those supporting loved ones in treatment know how to react in a healthy way. Reinforcing the plan for each person and discussing scenarios are one way to cope through treatment and understand the severity of the choices that are made. “Part of this disease is making medical changes, part of this disease is making cognitive changes… and part of this disease is making lifestyle changes,” Schmidt explains further that when it comes to change; it’s difficult! Most people that start on something in their lives find they don’t complete them. He names dieting and antibiotics as a couple of very common things that we as humans have a hard time following through on. So understanding that changes are difficult and that these diseases further complicate the medical and mindful end of the process, it is understandable that relapses can occur.
Relapses can be defined as “deterioration or change in state requiring pharmacologic intervention and/or hospitalization, correlated with changes in medication prescription by the treating physician and the patient stopping their medication.” (High Relapse Rates in BiPolar Disorder Confirmed by Sarah Pritchard, medwireNews Reporter). Anytime we then find ourselves in a situation where a change has not taken place and we have taken a step back, it is important to plan our steps forward so as not to make the same mistakes again or to find a better way to combat the situation.
Making A Relapse Prevention Plan
Addiction is a topic that is becoming more common because of an unfortunate opioid epidemic in the United States. Because of this commonality, there are examples introduced in main stream entertainment. On a popular TV series, ‘Sherlock’ the main character fights a debilitating addiction to heroin. After relapsing, he forms a relapse prevention plan to stay on track and rehabilitate his addiction. As with anyone that finds themselves in the position of failure, at some point it is necessary to pick up the pieces and make a plan. Keep these 5 things in mind:
1. You can do this… again.
If this is the first relapse or fifth, know that you are capable of recovering. With the right support, education and wisdom, recovery can happen. Get your head in the right place, seek residential treatment or therapy to help give yourself all the tools necessary. For those supporting a loved one through a relapse, it can be difficult to understand. Finding your own support to help you through these times is crucial. In either situation, be sure to take care of yourself and find support.
2. Don’t be afraid of change.
Sometimes recovery can be given new life when your environment changes; even temporarily. This is one reason why residential treatment is so advantageous for those looking for recovery. Changes are necessary for loved ones as well. Life cannot just go on without anything changing. Analyze your surroundings, breathe and find ways to improve your situation. Keep a journal. Write things down. Focus on the future.
3. Find a new focus
Pursue your passions, talents or find something worthwhile to occupy your time. Often, when we are busy and focused on something that is bigger than our own problems, that drive can help propel recovery and keep it on track. Serving others, diving into activities or practicing your talents are all great ways to refocus your energy. Watching a clock is antagonizing when you are wading through the trenches of recovery. Keep busy.
4. Surround Yourself With Positive Energy
As cliche as it may seem, surrounding yourself with positive people, in positive environments can be a huge help to recovery. Build yourself up with positive people that can help lead you to a healthy and balanced life. Find other peoples stories of recovery (We have some great ones!) and focus on things that bring you happiness.
5. Focus on Education
Better yourself. The more education you have, the more powerful you can become. Find resources in your public libraries, online or in group therapy. There are many programs with meetings that you can attend to help find the right topics to research and inspire your educational journey. Careers can stem from your ability to harvest education and apply it to your life.
Although a relapse prevention plan may not work every time, it is important to learn from the past and plan for a better future. Relapses are common for a variety of diagnosis; but there is always hope. Stressing the importance of finding the right support, education and seeking treatment can help build up the recovery process. It’s a humbling experience to find yourself under what seems like failure. The truth of the matter is that failure only happens when you choose to do nothing about it. If you are looking for treatment, education or researching programs, we have a caring team of professionals just waiting to speak with you. There is hope, we can help: 888-358-8998.