To sum it up quickly; treatment typically starts when an individual has decided that they’ve “had enough,” and even often time starts through some form of family intervention. The initial phase of treatment starts in detox, then sometimes a primary care, and then an aftercare facility and/or an IOP. After all the treatment options have been completed, an individual is now at a phase where it’s time for them to transition into the “normal” world, but for some reason, this next phase of development is not without its concerns. We realize there’s enough evidence to support that long-term treatment options have a better chance of success, so why do some people relapse after completing a year of treatment? In our 30+ years of experience, we’ve seen a lot of trends, and the most common reason is when some individual misses something along the timeline of addiction and start living dishonestly. There’s a lot of places where the first year of recovery can go wrong, and that’s why our program is structured the way that it is, in order to prevent things being overlooked.
But what about those individuals who did the internal work? How come some of them relapse too? Here are a few of the most common themes we’ve seen, and we encourage you to be on the look-out for them to ensure your, or your loved ones, recovery.
“I did my time in recovery.”
This has proven to be the most sinister belief we’ve come across. Recovery is a lifestyle, plain and simple, and a treatment center (among other things) provides the skillset and the community for one to integrate that lifestyle. So, this idea that one did “their time in recovery” directly confronts the fact that recovery is a lifestyle. The two simply contradict. By believing that one “completed” or “finished” their phase in recovery, the individual consciously or unconsciously stops taking all of the actions that have gotten them that far into their sobriety. For example, they stop calling their sponsor, stop going to meetings, give up their service commitments, stop working with others in recovery, and stop living under the principles taught to them in recovery as a whole.
The next risky development comes when one begins to uproot from their community. This isn’t to say that moving in recovery is always dangerous, but rather to raise the concern that a lot of the relapses we’ve seen start with one distancing themselves from friends who hold them accountable. This distancing has a bit of a ripple effect because it removes a set of individuals who are essentially trained to hold a person to a higher standard. Unless the person in question replaces their community with a new circle who continues to hold them to a high standard, more often than not this individual starts to slowly slide into old patterns of behavior that initially diminish their self-esteem. This slippery slope can potentially lead them to relapse, due to the adverse actions that they’ve taken in their life.
Rushing the foundation
Look, recovery is ultimately an investment of time and effort. By rushing through the initial investment, an individual misses out on crucial recovery coping skills, internal work, and behavior changes. The idea that addiction can be cured inside of a month is a plague that continues to cause relapse time and time again. Those recovering from SUD need to understand that their life will get better, over time, if they’re willing to continue to show up for their change in character.
“It’s time for me to get mine.”
We realize that majority of our lives were put on pause in our addiction, and pause again in recovery, and there is a natural urge to rush towards external success upon completion of an after-care facility. We believe that you should chase your dreams now that you’ve begun to earn sobriety, but take it in stride. Just as graduate courses follow the completion of undergrad, a serving job follows a hosting position, and the army follows boot camp, success in our lives takes time. We must complete the necessary steps to get to where we want to be. The conquest for immediate gratification in the pursuit of success sets one up for failure because they don’t acknowledge the process, and only focus on the completion of the failure of the goal.
Another place people go wrong is prioritizing their life in a way that puts a recovery lifestyle last. We realize that life “gets big” as soon as someone gets sober, and this isn’t so hard to imagine because daily responsibilities become a lot easier once the drugs and/or alcohol are removed. The mentality that’s dangerous occurs when an individual decides that their newfound “big life” is more important than their recovery lifestyle, and they only work their program when it’s convenient. This is not an attack on those who have to cut down on daily meetings and daily service commitments because we realize that one’s recovery evolves over time. The problem occurs when an individual pulls the plug on the very actions that are helping to keep them rooted in recovery, in order to chase the next phase of their lives. Sustaining recovery is ultimately about balance, and one must learn how to balance their recovery with their responsibilities if they’re going to make it for the long-haul.
Leaping without planting their feet
We’ve seen people try to move across the country, travel the world for an extended time, attend music festivals/raves, and participate in risky behavior before they finished their foundation in recovery. Just because someone has a year, or even two years sober, does not mean that they’re ready to take certain risks that expose them to harm’s way. It’s not that any of the above-listed things are immoral or wrong, the fact is that they’re risky, and one must be prepared for lifestyle risks in recovery by taking all of the necessary precautions beforehand. “Beef up your program before…” is a common saying in recovery, and we’ve seen time and time again that this really holds depth and weight when it comes to relapse prevention.
Recovery takes time
We realize that we all wish that an addict can be cured in a few months, and then continue to live the life where they left off before “it got bad,” this has just proven time and time again not to be the case. The timeline of addiction recovery is lengthy, exhausting, and requires serious dedication to the long-term welfare of one’s life. This is where the timeline goes wrong, its when someone forgets where they came from, they forget the desperation they had to get sober in the beginning, and then they stop doing everything that had been working for them thus far because they’re impatient. So, stop putting the cart before the horse, it’s dangerous to yourself and your loved ones.