For an addict who has successfully completed an inpatient rehabilitation program and has returned home with supportive family by their side, it would seem as if this individual would be on the track to sobriety. Looking at it from a textbook point of view, the addict would go through detoxification, attend therapy sessions, uncover the underlying reasons for the addiction and treat the mental, physical and emotional sides of the addiction. Their family would offer a supportive environment when they returned home. Unfortunately, our lives are not textbooks, and for many recovering addicts, long-term sobriety isn’t in the immediate future.
What is Relapse?
Relapse is the number one obstacle that recovering addicts face, and while the statistics aren’t exactly clear, it’s estimated that more than half of people experience relapse. For some, returning to drugs or alcohol happens immediately. The person may not be ready to live a sober life and may require more treatment. For others, relapse can occur years later, perhaps after a life-altering event that sends them into a depression, such as divorce, death or the loss of a job.
The reason why relapse is so common is because it’s a complex process that involves the mental, physical, emotional and behavioral components of a person. For instance, if the recovering addict does not fully heal from the issues they were suffering from before, their chances of relapsing are high. The issues that once led to drug addiction will most likely lead to addiction again. Additionally, the chemical composition of the brain leads addicts to drugs and alcohol as a way to deal with problems.
The bigger issue is that addicts face a lot of challenges after recovery. Even if they work through many of their problems in rehabilitation, there are unique obstacles to deal with in the real world. We must remember that recovering addicts are sensitive and require extra care, attention and support. Unfortunately, society doesn’t always offer this type of response, and it can cause discouragement for the person.
Many people have a hard time looking past the behavior of an addict. They may see this person as being a criminal, especially if he or she was arrested or spent time in jail. This prejudice makes it difficult for a recovering addict to rebuild their life. Living in a small town can make things worse. It can be hard to find a job, build relationships or be given new opportunities. Many are labeled addicts, and it can be nearly impossible to life this stigma.
The same is true for family relationships. Many addicts burn bridges when they lie, steal and create pain and suffering for the ones they love. It can be difficult to return to normalcy and have the same trust with the family. These relationships need to be rebuilt and nurtured, and this can be difficult for a recovering addict who is focusing more attention on themselves. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes this, and they may walk away from the person.
Of course, it’s difficult to expect people to automatically shift their opinion. Relationships take time, but in the meantime, the looks, whispers and opinions of others can have a weighing effect on a person. Some people believe that once an addict, always an addict, and their doubt for true recovery will discourage the person from a life of sobriety. We must remember that addicts have been weakened by their experiences. If we treat them like addicts, they will fall into that role again. We must encourage them to do what we know is possible: return to sobriety.
Lack of a Schedule
Another obstacle for recovering addicts is the lack of skills to live a normal, structured life. Building a healthy routine is an important part of recovery, but this can be hard to do outside of rehab when the days aren’t so structured. Since it can take time for a recovering addict to find a full-time job, they may spend their days at home with not much to do. This time can be the biggest villain, since it increases boredom and leaves the person alone with their thoughts.
It’s very important that those recovering from addiction do have healthy schedules that include exercise, social interaction from friends and family and some type of work. The more we can afford these opportunities to these individuals and support their ability to live a sober lifestyle, the easier it will be for them to integrate into society and play a vital role in the community.
Lack of Coping Skills
Finally, we must understand that many recovering addicts haven’t worked through their problems in their entirety. It’s difficult to resolve issues in 30 days of treatment, and in truth, it may take a lifetime to work through them. Recovering addicts are still developing the skills needed to live a sober lifestyle, and they may feel discouraged many days. Since addiction is a disease, it doesn’t ever go away. The addict is always fighting urges, so when they’re still developing coping skills, relapse is much more common.
Addicts face many challenges after rehabilitation. These challenges do lessen over time, but they are most profound in the beginning. It’s important not to judge these people, as they are trying to get better. The more positive opportunities we create, the better we can help the ones we love overcome their addiction – for good.