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Why Relapse Is Not the End of Recovery | Understanding the Process

Relapse is not the end of recovery

Most people’s understanding of substance use disorders is clouded by decades of misinformation. We know more about addiction than ever before, but public awareness simply hasn’t kept the pace. Misconceptions not only hinder people from addressing the challenges they face; they can also cause much harm.

How people think and talk about relapse highlights how misunderstandings affect those with substance use disorders. Addiction is a complicated disease that impacts people in complicated ways. When people oversimplify the meaning and implications of a relapse, they do a disservice to those struggling with addiction.

To understand recovery, you must understand what relapse does and doesn’t mean. Relapse is a process, not simply an isolated event. Though it is a setback, relapse is not the end of recovery.

Seeing Relapse as a Process

First, let’s understand that addiction is a disease. When it is treated and managed, the person with an addiction is in recovery. If someone in recovery returns to drug use, they have relapsed. However, a relapse is not just the act of substance use. It is also all the thoughts and actions one experiences before they use a substance.

In many cases, a return to drug use is preceded by depression, stress, a deviation from a healthy routine and a disillusionment with the recovery process. These are all part of the relapse process.

The Road of Recovery Isn’t Always a Straight One

A person with an addiction can relapse if they deviate from their treatment, but this does not mean their recovery has ended or that they have failed. After a relapse, treatment becomes even more important, just like with any other disease. For example, if a diabetic’s symptoms become worse, the diabetic must determine which factors contributed to the worsening of their condition, so they can address them with the proper treatment. The same is true of people with addictions.

Addiction is not cured but managed. Recovery isn’t as simple as many people mistakenly believe. Anyone coping with a substance use disorder will benefit from a more nuanced understanding of their condition. A common misconception about addiction is that it represents some sort of moral failing or lack of willpower. Thinking about relapse as simply a moment of weakness is damaging to the recovery process.

“Relapse Is Not the End of Recovery” Isn’t a Justification

The idea that relapse is not the end of recovery should not be used as a justification for drug or alcohol use. It is dangerous to use this rationale as an excuse. Relapse not only diverges someone from the path of recovery, it can be potentially fatal.

Because the consequences can be so severe, a relapse should not be taken lightly. However, a person who has relapsed should not see it as a failure. Its causes should be examined, and recovery should continue.

Thinking Clinically About Addiction

Relapse is a medical term describing the return of a condition’s symptoms. It is used to describe recurrences of cancer, kidney disease and congestive heart failure. It’s appropriate that we use this same term for the recurrence of an addiction. Studies suggest that relapse rates for people with substance use disorders are similar to those of people with other diseases. Because addiction is a complex disease, we must all think about it like we think about other medical conditions.

If you believe thinking about addiction in this way sounds too detached or clinical, consider the volumes of scientific research that have proven that addiction is a medical disorder. We know that addiction is a brain disorder affecting brain circuits that process reward, stress and self-control. Confronting the challenges this disease presents to sufferers requires a committed, scientific approach to treatment. Relapse is not the end of recovery, but it is an opportunity to adjust treatment and rededicate one’s efforts.

Contact Makana Path to Take the First Step to Recovery

At Makana Path, we take this mindset seriously. Old belief systems can limit people with addictions in profound ways. Our intensive healing program seeks to address those systems to promote healing on a deeper level. Makana Path’s medical detox program is individually tailored to meet the medical needs of each client.

We provide in-depth clinical and medical evaluations for each client. Properly treating a client requires understanding their unique circumstances and developing a plan. We have a clinical and medical staff that treat clients based on a comprehensive understanding of a client’s history of substance use, physical and mental health, and family of origin.

If you or a loved one is considering medical detox, we suggest contacting Makana Path for a complimentary assessment. We offer highly individualized detox treatment plans based on our client’s specific needs. Call 1-866-905-4550 to speak with an admissions counselor and learn more about how our detox services can help.