The Seeming Paradox of Recovery Leading to Relapse
Addiction is a complex and often misunderstood condition. Many people assume that when things are going smoothly in an addict’s life, the risk of relapse is greatly reduced. However, this is not always the case.
So why do addicts relapse when things are good? Keep reading to understand the complex nature of addiction, unpack the paradox of relapsing during good times, explore the impact of life changes and transitions on addiction recovery, and learn how Catalina Behavioral Health can help.
The Complex Nature of Addiction
Addiction is commonly referred to as a chronic disease of the brain because it alters brain structure and function. Substance use and addiction can cause physical and chemical changes in the brain, making it more difficult for a person to control impulses, make healthy decisions, and regulate emotions.
Overview of The Neurological Changes Caused by Substance Use
Substance use can lead to changes in the brain’s reward circuitry, which plays a crucial role in motivation, reward, and pleasure. Drugs and alcohol can flood the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasurable experiences.
This creates an association between substance use and pleasure, encouraging the individual to continue using in order to experience that pleasurable sensation again.
Because active addiction is a chronic condition, managing it can be a lifelong challenge. Relapse is a common part of the recovery process, as individuals often face numerous ups and downs in their journey to maintain sobriety. This means that even when things are going well, the risk of relapse can still be present.
8 Reasons: Why Do Addicts Relapse When Things Are Good?
1) Underlying Mental Health Disorders
One of the major reasons behind addiction relapse during good times is the presence of underlying and unresolved mental health issues.
Many individuals who struggle with addiction also deal with mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
For these individuals, the use of drugs or alcohol to combat PTSD can serve as a form of self-medication, helping them cope with their negative emotions.
When someone with drug addiction or alcohol abuse starts to experience “good times,” these underlying mental health issues can still persist. It’s possible that the initial positive changes in their life are not enough to resolve or address their emotional struggles completely.
2) Lack of Self Care
Self-care is a crucial component of the addiction recovery process. When someone starts experiencing positive changes in their life, they may feel a renewed sense of purpose and happiness.
However, this newfound positivity can sometimes cause people in early recovery to neglect vital aspects of self-care, such as maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and practicing mindfulness or meditation.
Neglecting self-care can rekindle the old triggers and cravings, tempting the person in recovery to use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism once again. It’s essential for individuals in recovery to continue prioritizing self-care and personal growth even when life seems to be improving.
3) Chronic Pain and Other Physical Ailments
For some, addiction to opioids or other pain-relieving substances begins as a way to cope with chronic pain or other physical ailments.
When life starts to improve, and things feel good, the underlying physical conditions often remain. Unfortunately, this means that the pain or discomfort is still there and can act as a trigger for relapse.
In many cases of clients who have suffered from chronic relapse on their road to recovery, this has been the source of their struggles.
4) How Positive Stress Can Trigger Addiction Relapse
Stress is often cited as a major cause of relapse in addiction recovery. While it’s true that negative life events can contribute to a desire to self-medicate, the lesser-recognized aspect of stress is that it can stem from positive events as well.
A new job, a newborn baby, or a recent marriage can all bring excitement and joy, but they can also introduce an undercurrent of stress into one’s life. This stress can be similar to the emotional turmoil experienced during negative events and can push those with addiction histories toward relapse.
5) The Struggles With Positive Emotions
Individuals recovering from addiction may find it challenging to navigate strong positive emotions alongside their sobriety. Some may have developed poor emotional regulation as a result of their substance abuse, leaving them unprepared to cope with heightened emotions in moments of happiness and success.
In such cases, relapse may be viewed as a means of moderating these intense feelings, even when they emanate from positive experiences.
6) Euphoric Recall and the Romanticization of Past Substance Use
During good times, individuals in recovery might experience what is known as “euphoric recall.” This involves reminiscing about past substance abuse experiences, often with a rose-tinted lens that downplays or omits negative consequences.
The emotional high associated with these memories can make a person in recovery more susceptible to relapse, as they may begin to crave the drug-induced euphoria of their past.
This phenomenon makes people forget about withdrawal symptoms, hot and cold sweats, and just how necessary avoiding relapse is.
7) ‘I Deserve It’ – The Self-Justification Mentality
Moments of success and happiness can foster an “I deserve it” mentality, where individuals in recovery may feel entitled to engage in substance abuse as a reward for their achievements.
This faulty logic makes it more likely that relapse occurs. It’s important for those in recovery to remind themselves regularly that true reward and self-care come in the form of continued sobriety and personal growth.
8) The Risks of Complacency
It’s not unusual for individuals who have experienced significant strides in their recovery journey to slip into a state of complacency. This dangerous mindset can make someone falsely believe that their sobriety is no longer at risk, and subsequently, they do not need to put in the same level of dedication and vigilance as before.
The truth is, recovery is a continuous process that requires unyielding commitment. There is no endpoint or finish line, and addicts must never forget this crucial fact. To avoid becoming complacent and inviting the risk of the relapse process, it’s vital for those in recovery to maintain consistently supportive connections with therapists, support groups, and fellow recovering addicts.
Sharing experiences, insights, and struggles is an indispensable way to keep oneself focused on their recovery journey.
Strategies For Maintaining Sobriety and Addiction Recovery From Drug Abuse
Overcoming addiction is an incredible achievement, but that doesn’t mean the journey ends there. Maintaining sobriety and continuing on the path to recovery is an ongoing process filled with challenges and triumphs.
By implementing key strategies and resources to prevent drug abuse, you can ensure long-term success and enjoy a fulfilling life free from addiction.
1. A Relapse Prevention Plan
At the foundation of any successful recovery is a solid relapse prevention plan. This is a personalized roadmap that outlines coping mechanisms and triggers, provides support strategies, and identifies early stages of relapse and warning signs.
By creating and regularly revisiting your plan, you’ll be better equipped to handle challenges and stay on track.
Some key elements of a comprehensive relapse prevention plan include:
- Identifying triggers and high-risk situations
- Developing healthy coping strategies
- Building a support network
- Managing stress effectively
- Implementing self-care practices
- Continuing therapy or counseling
2. Live a Healthy Life
Your physical and mental health are intrinsically connected to your sobriety. By making a commitment to live a healthy life, you not only improve your overall well-being but also strengthen your resistance to relapse.
Here are some tips:
- Eating a balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Getting sufficient sleep
- Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques
- Avoiding unnecessary stress and toxic relationships
- Staying hydrated
3. Healthy Boundaries
Establishing healthy boundaries is crucial in maintaining sobriety. Clear boundaries help you navigate relationships, social situations, and other aspects of your life while ensuring that your needs are met and your recovery remains the priority.
Ways to practice healthy boundaries include:
- Communicating your needs and expectations with honesty
- Saying “no” when necessary
- Recognizing manipulative behaviors and taking steps to protect yourself from them
- Engaging in self-care and self-love
- Cutting ties with individuals or groups that threaten your sobriety
4. Addiction Treatment Programs
Participating in ongoing programs at a treatment center and support groups is an essential tool in maintaining your sobriety. These programs provide a safe space to share experiences, learn from others, and access valuable resources that complement your recovery journey.
Examples of helpful treatment programs include:
- Outpatient therapy or counseling, individual and with family members
- 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA)SMART Recovery, a science-based alternative to 12-step programs
- Evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
Get Help with Your Addiction Recovery or Relapse Now
In the battle against addiction, staying sober can be an ongoing struggle. One of the biggest challenges for addicts is the fear of relapse, even when life seems to be going well. Despite their best efforts, some individuals will inevitably experience a setback along the way.
It can be easy to feel discouraged when this happens, but it’s important to remember that recovery is a journey, not a race. Relapse doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, it means that you’ve hit a bump in the road. Now that you know some of the most common answers to why do addicts relapse when things are good, we hope you can forgive yourself or a loved one if they have relapsed and seek support.
With the right mindset and support system, you can overcome addiction and achieve the life you’ve always dreamed of. For help with long-term sobriety, contact Catalina Behavioral Health today.
All calls to our facility are confidential, so please reach out in confidence to get options now!