Why Do People Relapse After Years of Recovery?

For anyone who has not had to experience the battle of addiction before, recovery can seem like a straight path when on the outside looking in. Ask someone for help, go to treatment and get sober, stay sober. Anyone who has dealt with addiction first hand will tell you otherwise. Recovery is not an easy process and it is not the straightforward journey that it seems to be. The journey of recovery is a path filled with ups and downs.

One of the biggest “downs” or disappointments someone in recovery can experience is returning to their drug of choice after living in a period of sobriety. This is called a relapse. While relapse may feel like a failure to most, it is more common than one might think. The unfortunate but real truth is that relapse is a threat that is always present for those living in recovery, no matter how long you have been sober.

Why Do People Relapse After Years of Recovery?

Do Not Give Up After a Relapse

Relapse does not mean you are a failure. Even the strongest people and those with years of recovery slip from time to time. It does not come from weakness or mean you will never be fully sober. It simply means a mistake was made. What matters going forward is recognizing that mistake and how you can recover from it. This means it is also important to figure out what triggered the relapse and understand why it happened. These have become common reasons why people relapse after years of recovery.

High Levels of Stress – When you are in recovery from addiction, managing it is a full-time job. You don’t get sober and just become a stable adult without any thoughts or feelings. Being sober is a constant battle with your thoughts and feelings. While triggering thoughts lessen with time, they can come back at any weak moment if you let them so a recovered addict has a full-time job of correcting these negative thoughts. When life obligations like family, work, or other things get to be too much, sometimes we let that guard down and slips can happen

A Lacking Support Network – When you are in recovery because of an addiction, it is important to stay connected to a circle of people who are dealing with the same as you, such as AA or NA. When tough times fall on someone it is important to have a village of people behind you who can support you. When that village is not there, you don’t have the support to talk you down off that ledge. It is so easy for someone in recovery to isolate themselves because it is part of the nature of addiction, but it can’t be part of the nature of recovery.

Not Treating the Root of the Problem – So many people who get sober simply just put down the bottle or the needle, but never actually take the time to understand or learn how they got there in the first place. Many people can go on for years like this, white-knuckling their sobriety, but never figuring out how they ended up there. This brings on so many unresolved issues for someone until they are back to their drug of choice. Whether it is a mental illness, trauma, pain, sickness, etc., you must treat the underlying emotional problems that keep bringing you back to drugs and/or alcohol.

Recovery is a Lifelong Journey 

Remember that your recovery is not a destination but a lifelong journey of healing and self-improvement. Relapse does not have to be a part of your story, but if it is it should just be seen as a setback on your path to a life in recovery, not an ending point. If you or a loved one need help with a relapse, we at Garden State Treatment Center are here to help.