In a World Where Relapse Is Prevalent, Returning to Treatment Is Essential

pretty Black woman on phone and laptop in her backyard - relapse

The Recovery Process

It would be nice to think of the recovery process as an adventure movie with a dashing hero. At the beginning of the blockbuster film, our hero is in trouble. But then, with the support of some loyal allies, they overcome that trouble and set things right. It might be hard, but our hero has grit—and a winning smile—and is more than up for any challenge.

And then, after the hardships have been overcome and the bad guys vanquished, the hero is revealed as whole and healed and happy as the credits roll. Cue the inspiring music.

If the movie has a sequel, putting the hero through hardships all over again, even better. Audiences want more, and everyone knows that the hero isn’t really suffering; they’re just acting. Pass the popcorn.

Well, that’s all fine and good when we’re talking about movies. But, of course, the recovery process is not an adventure movie. You may feel like a hero at first (and you are!), but you know that your movie will never end. Happiness and health will require continued work. And the last thing you want to do is go through those early stages of recovery all over again.

But sometimes that happens. In fact, it happens a lot. For those with a substance use disorder, starting over again isn’t known as a sequel. It’s known as a relapse.

Treatment 2: Return to Treatment

Relapse, unfortunately, is quite common—even more common than movie sequels—particularly early in the recovery journey. As many as two-thirds of individuals experience a relapse in their first year of sobriety. The numbers improve for those who are sober for more than a year, but because substance use disorders are a disease of the brain that can be treated but not cured, the risk of relapse persists.

If you experience a relapse, it is painfully tempting to conclude that you have failed. You might decide to give up. All might seem lost.

But think of our movie hero. No matter how many sequels pop up, the hero is always game to go through the whole adventure all over again. And that is exactly what needs to happen after a relapse, too. If you find yourself turning back to drugs or alcohol, it is time to go back to treatment.

Even Better Than the Original

Going back to treatment might seem like a waste of time. After all, if it didn’t work the first time, why would it work the second? That’s a fair question.

Think of it this way: returning to treatment is an opportunity to fine-tune your plan for long-term sobriety. Armed with the knowledge of what tripped you up and what difficulties you were having prior to the relapse, you and your treatment team can develop a new set of strategies to address those difficulties directly. Your return to treatment also provides an opportunity to continue working on any co-occurring mental health disorders that may accompany—or contribute to—your substance use disorder.

A second time through detox and rehab isn’t about spinning your wheels; it’s about creating the next chapter in the story of your pursuit of ongoing sobriety.

What If It’s a Trilogy? Or More?

Okay, so you have made it through treatment not once, but twice. You can count on smooth sailing from here, right?

Well, maybe. But also maybe not. Just like a movie franchise sometimes spins out a third movie—or even, say, an ill-advised fourth movie—sometimes a person may experience multiple relapses before achieving sustained sobriety. It goes without saying that this can be very discouraging, but just as with the first relapse, subsequent relapses require the same heroic resolve to return to treatment and battle the substance use disorder all over again.

We Can Help You Become the Hero of Your Own Story

At Farley Center, we are ready to help you overcome your substance use disorder—whether you are seeking treatment for the first time or are returning to treatment after a relapse. We will never give up on you—and we won’t let you give up on yourself either. Getting help is a heroic move, and we will support your personal version of the hero’s journey as you pursue your goal of lasting sobriety. Your story might be one of hardship right now, but we can help point you toward a much happier ending.