One trait that makes addiction a chronic illness is that it needs to be managed over time.
It’s not an illness that you can take a pill for and suddenly it’s over. Instead, cravings need to be monitored, lifestyle needs to be transformed, and one’s thoughts and feelings often need to be changed.
In an article on Everyday Health, Dr. Stephen Gilman, an addiction specialist in New York City, was reported as saying that “Your risk of relapse depends on the substance used.” Certainly, the more addictive a drug is the more challenging it would be to end that addiction.
An addiction to marijuana, for example, is going to be easier to end than an addiction to cocaine.
Dr. Gilman went on to say,
“There is a high rate of relapse for opiate addiction. At one year after stopping opiates, there is an 85 percent chance of relapse.” Along with cocaine addictions, opiate addictions are also incredibly challenging to break. And it’s this kind of addiction that more and more Americans are suffering from. Experts say that this is partly due to the increasing number of prescribed pain killers, and partly due to the accessibility of painkillers and heroin.
It Can Happen to Anyone
Dr. Gilman also commented, ““Anyone can relapse.” Certainly, addiction relapse is a normal part of recovery. It is the way that the healing of addiction takes place – two steps forward and one step back. Yet, there are some factors in the lives of some recovering addicts that have contributed to relapse, such as weak networks of support, underlying psychological disorders, beginning drug use early in life, and abusing multiple forms of substances.
Furthermore, those who chronically relapse might not have the coping skills to manage the emotions that might have been leading to drug use.
It’s important to keep in mind that because relapse is considered “normal” in recovery by most experts, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to use. If that’s the case, then there’s a good chance that you’re not really set out to get sober.
Typically, someone might be in their sobriety but end up using because of a strong craving, stress, an emotional situation, spending too much time alone, or not enough support. In other words, the relapse occurs without the intention to do so.
Also, long-term drinking and drug use creates changes in the brain that can last long after an addiction ends. In other words, an addiction has a strong biological component where triggers and cravings for the drug occur almost without notice.
Have a Strong Support System to Help You Stay Sober
Even if you have made the decision to stop using, it’s easy for stress from work, relationship concerns with friends, family issues, environmental cues, running into old drinking or drugging friends, and even a smell to trigger an intense craving. Even for those who are trying hard to stay sober, relapse can happen very easily, which is why the relapse rate is so high.
If you’re working on your sobriety, be sure to have a strong network of support, explore your thoughts and feelings and keep them positive as best you can, work with a therapist to resolve any early trauma in your life, and make sure to take good care of yourself physically and emotionally. And then even if an addiction relapse does occur, at least you’ll know that you’re taking two steps forward and only one step back.
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