alcoholic relapse after long term sobriety

Drinking Relapse After Long-term Sobriety

You have diligently—and with great fervor—embraced a sober life, notching many years on your recovery journey while dedicating your new life to remaining sober.  You may have logged a thousand A.A. meetings.  You may have achieved the fourth level of the SMART Recovery model.  You may even be a sponsor or mentor to those new in recovery, devoted to serving others in their quest for an abstinent lifestyle.

Whether you have 30 days sober under your belt or 30 years, relapse is an ever-present threat to sobriety. In fact, not to recognize and respect this fact constitutes a dangerous form of denial.  Alcohol addiction is a wily foe, never to be thought of as under control.  No matter how methodically you have managed your long-term recovery, every recovering alcoholic is vulnerable to relapse—especially if complacency has seeped in.

Why Do Recovering Alcoholics Relapse After Long-Term Sobriety?

Considering all the many roads that can lead a person to become an alcoholic, it should not be surprising to learn that an addict that starts drinking after long-term sobriety can be triggered by a myriad of situations and reasons. Among the most common include:

  • Memory fades.  After a certain number of years, the hard edges of the memories associated with active addiction can soften.  Wistful memories of drinking may become romanticized, weakening your resolve and tricking you into drinking again.  
  • You stop participating in sober fellowship.  Whether it is a 12-step program or a non 12-step program, the connections with others also battling the monster of alcoholism helps give you the support and accountability needed to remain sober.
  • Co-occurring mental health disorder.  Some alcoholics suffer from an underlying mental health condition such as depression and anxiety.  Both the alcohol addiction and the mental health condition must be treated if recovery is to be sustained.
  • Inadequate coping strategies.  Life will continue to throw curveballs and challenges, no matter how long one has been sober.  Never having acquired the tools to cope with significant loss, trauma, or life’s difficulties makes you vulnerable to relapse.
  • You buy the lie.  One of the most common causes of alcoholic relapse after long-term sobriety is coming to believe that, since you have been sober so long, you can have a drink now and then.  Alcohol dependency is a lifelong condition that will never morph into an innocent recreational habit.

What to Do When an Alcoholic Relapses

Let there be no doubt about it: a relapse from drinking after long-term sobriety can lead to death.  This is because the body has adjusted to having no alcohol exposure for years, but the alcoholic mind stubbornly retains the memories of active addiction practices.  A relapse after a long period of sobriety can overwhelm the body with lethal toxins and cause alcohol poisoning.  Alcoholics also have very high rates of suicide, with depression accompanying a sense of failure and despair among those who relapse.

Recognizing that sobriety is the only option for living a full and satisfying life, it is imperative that the individual who relapsed return to treatment, therapy, a sober living environment, or fellowship meetings immediately.  It is common for there to be feelings of shame and guilt after a relapse, but that must not inhibit the individual from returning to the necessary recovery activities that will save one’s life.  Seek the support of loved ones and humbly do whatever it takes to reclaim sobriety.

Ranch Creek Recovery Can Help

If you have found yourself in the state of relapse, the compassionate treatment team at Ranch Creek Recovery will “walk the path” of recovery alongside you.  Focused on providing a holistic approach to treating alcoholism, the many therapeutic options available are designed to treat the mind, body and spirit, not just the disease.  Located in the serene hillsides of Temecula, California, Ranch Creek Recovery provides a natural setting in which to overcome addiction and heal.  For more information about our holistic treatment program, please call us today at (877) 997-8931.

Relapse Prevention Groups in Treatment

Relapse Prevention Groups in Treatment

How Relapse Prevention Groups in Treatment Can Prepare for Life after Recovery

The decision to get clean and sober was not an easy one. In some ways, severing ties with your drug of choice is akin to breaking up with a lover. Even if that lover is not good for you and your relationship is toxic, it is still hard to walk away. Deep-seated past emotional hurts can lay the foundation for coupling up in a dysfunctional romance, as well as finding oneself seriously addicted to a substance that can actually kill you. For this reason, detangling yourself from the grip of a substance addiction is a difficult endeavor that demands a proactive effort if one is to be successful in recovery.

No matter how pumped you are to start life over clean and sober that dreaded “R” word dangles there like low-hanging fruit….Relapse. While it’s true that 50-90% of recovering addicts will likely relapse within a year, that doesn’t have to be your fate. There are numerous actions one can take to anticipate the triggers and emotional baggage that could lead to a relapse, and a relapse prevention group is a great place to start the offensive planning.

What are Relapse Prevention Groups in Treatment?

Relapse Prevention Therapy falls under the umbrella of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that focuses on not only identifying the possible triggers and situations that could trip up your recovery, but also teach new, healthy responses to them through the group exercises. By creating a relapse prevention plan in the early days of recovery—giving voice to the potential culprits that can undermine sobriety and learning techniques to dodge them—the chances of relapse will be dramatically reduced.

In a relapse prevention group a therapist will help each member identify certain thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that you associate with using. Just becoming aware of these triggers that, in the past, were followed by cravings and drug or alcohol use will help the newly recovering individual see them from a sober perspective and make a plan to respond differently to them moving forward.

Making an action plan to implement when the warning signs of impending relapse occur is learned in the relapse prevention group’s warning sign management exercise. Each group member will share their own personal warning signs, and how you plan to manage them. The group assists in helping each other with strategies, and challenge each other with “what if?” types of scenarios to help fellow members create a sound strategy for relapse prevention. All of the techniques taught in the relapse prevention group will help prepare you for life after rehab.

Other Relapse Prevention Tools

Relapses after recovery usually follow a predictable pattern. There is an emotional relapse phase where signs of anxiety and anger along with isolating behavior and skipping meetings can begin the process toward relapse. The mental relapse phase is characterized by fantasizing about using, hanging out with friends who use, lying, and beginning to plan a relapse around people’s schedules. Finally, the physical relapse occurs. It is during the first two phases that an impending relapse can be thwarted.

The acronym BHALT is important to preventing relapse, as it identifies the emotions that may promote relapse. BHALT stands for bored, hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. In relapse prevention group coping techniques are taught to help you pay attention to these emotions and how to cope with them to prevent a relapse.

Other relapse prevention tools are eating a healthy diet, getting quality sleep and establishing regular sleep hours, and getting exercise. In addition, relaxation techniques are taught to help calm the mind and reduce the anxiety associated with the early days of sobriety. Deep breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, journaling, and massage are all excellent relaxation tools.

Ranch Creek Recovery Relapse Prevention Groups in Treatment

Ranch Creek Recovery is a private drug and alcohol rehabilitation program located in the beautiful hills of Temecula, California. Their relapse prevention group is one of the many excellent features offered at this non 12-step recovery facility. With a focus on holistic and experiential healing, the compassionate clinicians at RCR walk the walk with the clients, offering a serene therapeutic approach to addiction recovery. For more information, please call (877) 997-8931 today.

Addiction treatment

Learn More About Relapse Prevention And Dual Diagnoses

Ranch Creek Recovery offers more than specialized addiction treatment; we offer a second chance at a normal life. Contact us at (951) 795-4326 to learn how we’ve changed the lives of others. You can also learn more about the importance of effective addiction treatment by browsing these addiction-related resources:

  • This article from The Huffington Post describes how self-medication can lead to substance abuse.
  • Explore the truth behind dual diagnosis by visiting this page from Mental Health America.
  • Visit PsychologyToday.com if you’d like to learn more about addiction triggers.
  • How can you avoid relapse during your addiction recovery? This page from Livestrong.com has the answer.
  • This page from MedlinePlus has reliable information about dual diagnosis disorders.