If you have already been in recovery for any extended period of time, you likely have extensive experience with relapse. Even if you yourself have never relapsed, you have heard about it in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on a regular basis, or you have a close friend who has experienced a relapse. Basically, a relapse refers to a return to drinking or drug use after an extended period of sobriety.
For many people, this is simply a reality of the recovery process. Others never experience a relapse and stay completely abstinent from the time they enter into drug and alcohol rehab to the time they leave God’s green earth. While there is no “right way” to recover, it is obviously ideal to never experience a relapse – and if you do, to bounce back super quickly, learn from your mistakes, and never fall into the same pattern again.
There are those, however, who are considered “chronic relapsers.” These men and women cannot seem to stay sober for the life of them. They might scrape together a few days or weeks, but they eventually find themselves picking up their drug of choice or pulling into the parking lot of the neighborhood dive bar.
Learning from the Mistakes of Others
Addiction recovery is a process that relies heavily on peer support. If we allow ourselves to, we can successfully learn from the shortcomings of others and avoid making the same mistakes. We recently sat down with a young man who – up until somewhat recently – could not stay sober to (quite literally) save his life. We asked him for insight as to why he thought he struggled to stay clean, and what advice he had for those who might be struggling with the same issue. If you have had a difficult time staying sober in the past, remember that help is available the moment you reach out for it. At Chapel Hill Detox we have extensive experience helping men and women of all ages maintain long-term sobriety, regardless of how much they have previously struggled to do so. For more information on our comprehensive medical detox program or to get started on your personal journey of lifelong healing, simply pick up the phone and give us a call.
Interview with a Chronic Relapser
Chapel Hill Detox: Thank you for agreeing to meet with us today! First of all, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and your personal history with substance abuse?
Mark: No problem! So, I kind of have what could be considered a classic story, and the sense that I was introduced to drugs and alcohol and early age and I had undergone some degree of trauma before that. So, when I did finally try drugs, I was immediately attracted to them because of the way they made me feel. I would say I probably started using around the age of 12, and things just progressively got worse over time. I ended up dropping out of high school because I just didn’t care and I couldn’t keep my grades up, and by the time I was about 17, I had started shooting heroin. For me, that was really it. Just being completely numbed out – not having to deal with anything or face any of the consequences that I had racked up, that was really nice.
CHD: When did you first decide to get sober, and what did that process look like?
Mark: I overdosed for the first time when I was 18, and my younger brother found me unresponsive in my bedroom. That really messed him up. At that point I wanted to get sober for him – I wanted to get sober for my family. But I just couldn’t commit, and I ended up overdosing again about six or seven months later. That’s when my mom involuntarily put me into rehab. She told me that if I didn’t stay sober, she would completely cut me out of her life and my brother’s life. I kind of weighed the options, and I realized that I had to get clean at that point in time.
CHD: What led to your first relapse, and how did straying away from your personal recovery program make you feel?
Mark: So, after I went to rehab – and I was there for I think three months – I got out and went into a halfway house, and I kind of got maybe a little too confident. I started to think that I could skip out on meetings and stuff like that, and also a lot of the guys in my halfway house were using steroids at the time. So, I started getting into that, and I was honestly prioritizing working out and bulking up way more than I was focusing on my recovery. Within the first 30 days of being at the halfway house I started using oxycodone, and then eventually progressed to using heroin again. I was kicked out of halfway and I lived on the streets for a couple of weeks until I was able to get into detox again.
CHD: How many subsequent relapses did you experience?
Mark: It can be kind of difficult to stay sober once you fall victim to that vicious cycle of detox, rehab, insurance fraud… There are a lot of people out there who don’t have your best interest at heart, who just want you to get into their program or halfway house so they can milk your insurance policy. I mean, I’m not blaming the system for my relapses, but it was really hard for me to stay sober because I kept landing in these really shady facilities. Like they didn’t really care if I was getting high or not. So, I don’t really know if you could consider them relapses, because I didn’t stay sober for longer than a week or two every time.
CHD: Do you have any idea as to why it was so difficult for you to stay sober?
Mark: I mean really, looking back, I just wasn’t doing the work. I was going to maybe two meetings a week just to get my slip signed, and I definitely wasn’t working through the steps with a sponsor. I would get a sponsor, and I would call him like maybe once a week, and then I would just fall off completely. I wasn’t being honest with anybody. I was lying to myself.
CHD: What did you finally change in order to maintain the amount of sobriety you currently have?
Mark: I finally called my mom and told her I needed to get into a program that wasn’t sketchy – I told her I needed serious help, and I needed her to do some research for me. She ended up finding a reputable, gender-specific rehab that helped me a lot. After that I just stayed committed to taking all of the suggestions and doing everything I had to do.
CHD: If you could give advice to someone in the same situation, what advice would you offer?
Mark: I would say that things definitely get worse. it can be a vicious cycle, and it’s better to commit to doing things right the first time around to save yourself the pain and the homelessness, or whatever else ends up happening.
CHD: Is there anything else that you would like to add before we conclude the interview?
Mark: I was too afraid to ask for help for a really long time. I thought that I could handle my affairs on my own, and I thought that I knew what it took to overcome my addiction. I would honestly say, even if you do think that you know what’s best for you, pretend like you don’t know anything.
Recovery Begins with Medical Detox
Most long-term journeys of addiction recovery begin with an admission to a medically monitored detox program. Regardless of what type of chemical substance you or your loved one has been abusing, the associated withdrawal symptoms will undeniably be uncomfortable enough to lead to a return to use before the detox process has even concluded. Many people believe that they can successfully detox in an at-home setting, only to find that the withdrawal symptoms are unmanageable, and that the psychological cravings that go hand-in-hand with detox are simply too much to bear. If you are serious about quitting long-term, simply give Chapel Hill Detox a call today. Our dedicated staff members are standing by 24/7 to help you get started on the road to recovery. We understand how difficult getting sober can be – in fact, the majority of our staff members have either battled addiction themselves or have helped a loved one through the addiction treatment process. This offers our staff a unique level of compassion and understanding – we are dedicated to providing you or your loved one with nothing but respect and empathy. For more information on the medical detox services we provide, reach out at your earliest possible convenience.