7 Common Myths About Relapse: Truth Vs. Fiction

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”  – Robert Collier

Yes, recovery from alcohol and substance use disorders comes with the risk of relapse – in fact, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that the addiction relapse rate hovers around 40 and 60 percent. But there is real hope. Through more research, treatment, and education, those in recovery have more accurate resources to help separate fact from fiction when it comes to relapse and most importantly how to avoid it. Here are some of the more common myths about addiction relapse – and the truth to combat the fiction.

Myth: Relapse erases all positive changes made in recovery.

Truth: A relapse is a temporary set-back and does not negate all of the progress you have made thus far. In fact, a relapse can provide a person with valuable insight regarding what caused it in the first place. The triggers and events leading up to the relapse can be pinpointed and worked on to prevent it from happening again.

Myth: Abstinence guarantees a successful recovery. 

Truth: Abstinence is crucial to maintaining sobriety. However, if abstinence was all it took to stay sober, issues resulting from post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) wouldn’t happen. The term PAWS was created to describe the cluster of withdrawal symptoms, which are largely psychological and mood-related, that can continue long after acute withdrawal symptoms dissipate. These symptoms largely happen due to the chemical changes that occur during active addiction. So no, just abstaining from substance use does not guarantee successful recovery. Treating the physical as well as the emotional and psychological issues that lie underneath the addiction is your best chance at long-lasting recovery.

Myth: Relapse means treatment failure. 

Truth: The substance use treatment didn’t fail, it just needs adjustment. The NIDA makes a strong case for this point when it states, “Relapse rates for drug use are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses. If people stop following their medical treatment plan, they are likely to relapse. Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed.” 

Myth: Relapse comes out of nowhere.

Truth: contrary to this myth, relapse usually has many warning signs that precede the actual act of alcohol or substance use. The steps to relapse often involve a culmination of changes in behaviors and emotions as well as triggers, such as people, events, or places, that gradually lead to an actual relapse. The goal is to identify those warning signs, no matter how subtle they are, before the relapse occurs.

Myth: Relapse will happen, it’s unavoidable.

Truth: Relapse is a process that can be identified, and it can be avoided with increased awareness and education. It’s also important to point out that relapse shouldn’t be viewed as a “part of recovery.” This phrase can be easily misconstrued to mean relapse is a step in recovery, just to expect it, and not to protect yourself. Yes, it can happen – but it’s an unfortunate instance that may occur in recovery, but is not a step or part of recovery.

Myth: Relapse results because someone is not motivated enough. 

Truth: Highly motivated people relapse too and need to adjust their program like everyone else.  Relapse can happen to anyone – no matter “how hard” they work on their sobriety. Yes, the process of recovery does not run smoothly and you have to work at it – every day, but even the most diligent in recovery programs relapse. 

Myth: The individual who continues to relapse hasn’t hit “rock bottom” yet. 

Truth: The myth that you have to hit rock bottom in order to stay sober and not relapse is a dangerous one. Any amount of emotional distress or pain can trigger a relapse. The real goal here is to recognize the symptoms and signals of relapse and get help before your situation turns painful again or spirals. Prevention is the key to sobriety – not hitting an “all-time low.”

Addiction, Relapse, and Taking Action

Relapse is not an end, it’s a setback during recovery. However, to stay sober, you have to put your recovery first. This begins with long term and short term goals and concrete action plans in case relapse does occur. Taking care of yourself, following the steps, developing skills and strategies to deal with everyday stressors, avoiding triggers, and having a strong support system will help you stay on track and decrease the chances of relapse in the future. 

Daylight Recovery Services takes a holistic approach to substance abuse and co-occurring disorder treatment to address the physical, psychological, and spiritual facets of addiction and recovery. We ensure clients emerge from our facility with the proper tools and confidence in their ability to lead a healthy, enjoyable life. If you or someone you love is ready to break free of the bondage of addiction, contact one of our recovery experts today at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT.