How Do I Deal With Chronic Relapse and Not Let It Break My Spirit?

One of the more common problems for recovery patients revolves around rates of success based on the percentage of patients who maintain long-term sobriety in contrast to those who may have relapsed after leaving treatment. Although we shouldn’t see it in such black-and-white terms, rehab facilities and the medical community have found few other ways of proving the effectiveness of addiction recovery treatment programs to their patients. 


We would like to reiterate here that relapse can be a natural part of the recovery process and is by no means an exact measure for any successful treatment service. However, the statistics on recovery rates among addiction recovery patients do serve as a viable measure of success. The statistical indicators serve a dual purpose in further advocating the need for addiction treatment services as well as developing a better understanding of addictive disorders and co-occurring mental health issues for treatment purposes. 


These studies have shown increased sobriety success rates for individuals who receive any form of addiction recovery treatment whether inpatient or outpatient services. Treatment has significantly reduced addiction recovery patients’ chances of relapse, with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reporting that around 40-60% of treated individuals eventually achieve full remission from their addictive disorder — full remission being defined as any period after 5 years of continued sobriety. However, these studies often fail to recognize the individuals who suffer from a condition known as chronic relapse. 


What is Chronic Relapse?

Chronic relapse involves addiction recovery patients who are stuck in a perpetual cycle of completing treatment, maintaining stretches of periodic sobriety, and then relapsing to the point of needing to re-enter treatment once again. Many chronic relapsers have attended and completed multiple treatment programs, and yet they still cannot maintain consistent, long-term sobriety. The condition can be increasingly frustrating to recovery patients as all willing and gainful attempts at a sober lifestyle are met with disappointment and eventual relapse. 


As the popular addiction recovery phrase so aptly describes, addictive behavioral patterns and substance misuse are cunning, baffling, and powerful disorders. With the addition of chronic relapse, many addiction recovery patients feel even more isolated and depressed than when they first began their programs of treatment. Below we will discuss some of the causes for chronic relapse as well as detail some helpful tips on how to navigate sobriety if you find yourself experiencing multiple relapses. 


Potential Causes of Chronic Relapse

  • Failure to complete or continue ongoing addiction recovery treatment
  • Harmful living environment
  • Trading addictions
  • Untreated or unresolved issues with mental illness and/or trauma 
  • Dishonesty or disconnect with the self


Finding a New Path to Maintaining Long-Term Sobriety

Addiction recovery patients experiencing bouts of chronic relapse first need to be able to maintain a positive outlook and avoid depression in the face of overwhelming frustration and disappointment. The practice of Cognitive Behavioral and Dialectic Therapy (CBT and DBT) is a proven method for improving overall morale and avoiding the pitfalls of negative thinking. This type of therapy can be practiced in one-on-one sessions and also from the comfort of your home. CBT and DBT involve simple changes to word choices substituting positive affirmations that can help downplay negativity in thought and speech patterns. For example, instead of saying, “I will not drink alcohol.”, you would say, “I will stay sober.” This is just one example of how CBT and DBT can help patients keep a positive daily outlook by just utilizing simple wordplay to shift the perspective. 


Another alternative path for those experiencing chronic relapse is to seek out psychiatric medication from a licensed professional for depression or other mood disorders. We are not suggesting you seek out a wonder pill medication like naltrexone or even those like suboxone that help wean patients off opioid addictions during withdrawal. Rather, patients experiencing chronic relapse may want to speak with a psychiatrist about the possibility of taking antidepressants which can improve overall morale while reducing the risks for further depressive states. Increased isolation and depression are generally more common in chronic relapse patients and medication may give you the boost you need to avoid depressive states that could lead to relapse. Any potential antidepressant medication that your doctor recommends may also help to reveal the underlying mental health issue that persists in triggering your chronic relapse.


Lastly, we would recommend that patients experiencing chronic relapse consider an extended stay beyond a traditional 30 or 90-day inpatient service at a rehab facility of their choosing. There can be many causes that create chronic relapse, but we think you will find that a disconnect or dishonesty with the self is ultimately the culprit standing in the way of you and long-term sobriety. An extended rehab stay will help you create healthy, sober behaviors as habits and give you the necessary time to unearth any mental health issues at the root of your disconnect with the self.


If you or someone you love is experiencing chronic relapse from an addictive disorder with co-occurring mental health issues, Choice House has the dual-diagnosis treatment services to help. We offer men the chance to achieve sobriety and learn how to maintain a sober lifestyle as they build a new foundation based on love, empathy, and understanding. Our addiction recovery treatment program includes a minimum 90-day inpatient service, an intensive outpatient program, and the opportunity to receive continuing care while residing at our sober living campus. Located in Boulder County, Colorado our facilities are ideally situated between the Rocky Mountain National Park and the bustling city of Louisville. We take full advantage of having the Rocky Mountains literally in our backyard by offering a unique outdoor wilderness therapy modality. In this outdoor therapy, men are afforded the chance to reconnect with nature, fellow recovery patients, and themselves through physical activities like hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking. We firmly believe that the bonds of friendship you make here will last a lifetime and prove vital to the recovery effort long after you have left Choice House facilities. The proximity to the city of Louisville is also beneficial to both our outpatient services and those transitioning at our sober living campus. These individuals can maintain gainful employment and keep active social lives all the while remaining under the guidance and supervision so necessary in early recovery. For more information regarding Choice House facilities or programs of service, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.

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