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Relapse: Debunking Myths & Misconceptions

Pop star Demi Lovato’s recent near-death overdose after years of sobriety raises lots of questions about recovery, relapse, and drug and alcohol addiction.

Let’s answer those questions and tackle common myths about relapse and recovery.

“How could this happen, I thought she was better?”

Recovering addicts can go days, months, even years without acting on their urges.

Substance abuse, addiction and dependency are much like high blood pressure or diabetes — lifelong battles with ebbs and flows. Sometimes things go remarkably smoothly — and sometimes you hit bumps in the road no matter how hard you try.

The complexity of recovery must be managed along with expectations. Recovery is a lifelong process and Ascend’s counselors are here to help you.

“Was it all a facade?’

Recovery is an endless journey and there are bound to be lapses in the process. Addicts can wholeheartedly want to stay clean while also struggling against strong urges to start using or drinking again.

The desire to lapse or slip — even giving in to the temptation — doesn’t make you or your loved one a bad person, simply one who needs help.

It also doesn’t

We teach coping skills to help control the urges instead of letting them control you.

“She was doing so well, how did this come out of nowhere?”

No relapse ever truly comes out of nowhere. Awareness of red flags like these may help you or your loved one stay sober:

  • Becoming withdrawn from friends and family
  • Associating with old friends or returning to old settings that can trigger problem behaviors
  • Feeling overwhelmed, especially by lingering issues related to prior substance abuse
  • Feeling out of control or experiencing intense cravings without relief
  • Romanticizing or glorifying the “good old times”
  • Seeming to be stressed out, moody, frantic or distracted
  • Unrealistic or magical thinking about resuming drug or alcohol use
  • Symptoms of withdrawal after a brief lapse or slip
  • Losing interest in recovery or treatment
  • No longer participating in their usual group or individual counseling and support plan

If any of these symptoms arise prior to relapse, and they almost always do, reach out for help or encourage your loved one to reconnect to recovery.

“Can an addict actually get sober?”

Absolutely. First, a very short lapse, or slip, doesn’t automatically mean that someone is going to immediately relapse into full addiction. If the lapse is isolated, and the person quickly stops using, they may well use it as motivation to return to their recovery program and get back on track.

Even after multiple lapses, even if someone experiences a full relapse, sobriety is always possible. Many recovering addicts come back stronger after a relapse with more determination to get clean and stay clean than ever before.

“What happens now?”

Recovery is always within reach, even after a serious relapse or multiple relapses.

There are several ways to look at life post-relapse. Some people in recovery see the morning after their relapse as the first day of their new recovery.

Others consider relapse a stumble along the path of sobriety and pick themselves right back up.

Some let the relapse serve as a wake-up call and reinvest in the recovery process.

Recommitment to clean living, self-care and a supportive network is essential to true sobriety. With those assets, sobriety is possible for everyone committed to the journey.