When people talk about recovery from addiction, they often focus on the worst-case scenario: relapse. As a person in recovery who has experienced relapse, I have come to believe (1) relapse is not mandatory, (2) if it does happen, it can teach us something, and (3) there are things we can do to move forward from relapse and back into recovery.
You Don’t Have to Relapse
Why I believe relapse isn’t mandatory:
The main focus in recovery is on preventing relapse. Recovery programs are designed to guide recovering addicts far away from it. A relapse usually occurs when someone isn’t working their program of recovery or seeking guidance from peers with more experience. Relapse may also occur when a challenge arises and steps aren’t taken to address it or, worse, the problem is ignored.
I know of many people who have stayed in long-term recovery by keeping an open mind and by using what has worked for others who have come before them. This may include psychotherapy, counseling, 12-step fellowships, or any combination of these or other proven methods.
For those of us who have experienced relapse, there is something to be learned from the experience.
Learning From Relapse
Here’s what my relapse taught me:
I decided somewhere after my one-year mark in recovery that I didn’t have a disease (addiction), and that I had things under control. That was a very alarming sign to those in my support network—professionals and peers alike. They warned me that this kind of thinking and my unresolved mental health issues would make me more likely to relapse. I ignored them and, as they predicted, ended up relapsing.
I was fortunate enough to make it out of that relapse alive. I was also so shocked by the relapse that I was able to see how my mistaken beliefs and behaviors contributed to my relapse. For the first time, I truly and fully committed to living my life in recovery. Although my relapse was not necessary by any means, it did help me get desperate enough to fully commit to my recovery. I then had to learn how to move forward into recovery again.
Making Recovery Sustainable
I found a team of professionals and experienced peers was essential for moving into recovery. I had to evaluate whether medical detoxification or long-term treatment was necessary again. After that, I had to be willing to accept I had made mistakes and be willing to give recovery a more committed effort. I also had to be willing to take my own inventory and see what I needed to change.
It was hard to swallow my pride and move forward after admitting defeat, but I am grateful for the life that comes with recovery. I moved back into recovery by being willing to follow suggestions, tackle my issues, be honest, maintain an open-mind, have compassion for myself, stay determined, and be willing to learn. By maintaining this outlook, I was finally able to see clearly and do what I needed to do to participate in recovery.
Today, my recovery program consists of service work, 12-step fellowship, therapy and counseling, and committing to daily growth. The life that I have built with this recovery includes being a full-time student, a full-time employee, a musician, an older brother, a mentor, and a person who I can depend on and respect every morning when I wake up.
I no longer look back with regret. I look forward with hope and an ongoing commitment to my recovery.
Know someone who might resonate with Jashun’s story of relapse and continued recovery? Please like and share this post with them. Or, if you have questions or comments, please leave them below! We’re always looking for ways to keep the conversation about recovery going. Education is one the most powerful tools we have combat addiction.