Is Relapse Part of the Recovery Process?
Relapse is a word that means setback after a period of improvement. Most people experience relapse in some form or another. Relapse is a common term used when describing cheating on a diet or when someone has made a bad decision and states they had a relapse of judgment. In recovery, relapse is a common word that conjures up many negative thoughts and images.
To the outside observer, recovery may seem like a simple process. A person quits using the substance, goes to treatment, and ultimately recovers never to return. For substance abusers, it is not this simple. There is always the fear of relapsing that hangs over the heads of addicts. Some can use this fear of relapse to stay sober while others constantly think about the possibility of relapsing and starting the sobriety clock over.
Between 70% – 90% of individuals who stop using substances will relapse. Many will relapse several times before any sustained length of abstinence is achieved. Still others will quit using substances on their first attempt. Relapse is a big part of recovery as the ultimate goal is to avoid relapse at all costs. If relapse is the ultimate goal, then one might question why relapse is even an issue in recovery. Some argue that too much emphasis is put on relapse while others believe there is not enough effort put into relapse prevention.
The fact of the matter is any person in recovery can relapse at any given time. All addicts need to be aware of this and take steps to avoid relapse. Relapse has its place in recovery but with too much emphasis, many might take the approach that they are going to relapse anyway so why even bother trying to stay sober. In 12-step meetings some individuals return to a meeting stating that they had relapsed. When this happens, the person is offered support and welcomed back to the meeting. There are some who believe that 12-step meetings are too generous with those that relapse when there should be consequences. It would hard to define what these consequences would look like to the person who just relapsed and needs support.
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