Relapse may seem like a failure, but it is actually a part of the recovery process. If you are in treatment for addiction, it is important to know that relapse and recovery can occur together as part of an ongoing journey. Here are five reasons why a relapse doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
Addiction is a Disease
One reason that relapse is not indicative of failure is that drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic relapsing illness. As experts have reported, the research supports that addiction is a brain disease because it weakens the brain’s ability to experience pleasure and motivation, increases a person’s response to stress, creates cravings and unpleasant emotions when cravings go unsatisfied, and impairs functioning of brain regions associated with controlling inhibitions, making decisions, and regulating behavior.
Because addiction is a disease that affects the way your brain works, relapse is also part of the disease.
Relapse is Common
Relapse is a common part of the recovery process. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), relapse statistics show that 40-60% of people relapse after completing treatment. This relapse rate is comparable to that seen with physical illnesses, such as asthma and high blood pressure, for which the rate of relapse is between 50-70%.
The chances of relapse after rehab are moderately high, indicating that relapse is a normal part of recovery and not an individual failure.
The Recovery Village recently surveyed 2,136 American adults who either wanted to stop drinking alcohol or had already tried to (successfully or not). Of those, only 29.4% reported not relapsing at all. The largest group (32.3%) relapsed back to alcohol use within the first year after stopping. With perseverance, your chances of relapsing decrease the longer you stay sober: 21.4% relapsed in their second year in recovery, but only 9.6% relapsed in years three through five, and only 7.2% did so after their fifth year in recovery.
Recovery is a Lifelong Journey
It’s important to remember that recovery is a lifelong journey. One expert explains that recovery is more like a form of remission, where relapse is still possible. Recovery can mean that someone is making progress but is not cured.
Your recovery journey is an ongoing process, not a single event where you’re suddenly cured and will never experience a relapse.