Relapse & Recovery: Addiction Statistics Show the Importance of Keeping at It

The journey from addiction to recovery is often marked by both triumphs and setbacks, but each step offers profound insights into the complexity of addiction and the resilience required to achieve lasting sobriety. Understanding the patterns of relapse and the statistics surrounding recovery can illuminate the path forward, offering hope to those navigating this challenging terrain. At NorthStar Transitions, we’re taking a closer look at why getting sober isn’t easy and how you can find support after rehab.

Why Getting Sober Isn’t Easy

Getting sober is challenging to do. Drugs and alcohol feel good in the short term despite the long-term damage they do to the brain and body. They also alter our brain chemistry and reward system, making it difficult to resist cravings even after a long period of abstinence. 

However, substances aren’t only about feeling good — often, they’re used to escape emotional pain. Many individuals turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism for underlying issues such as stress, trauma or mental health concerns. If these challenges aren’t adequately addressed, getting sober is even more difficult. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that it takes many people multiple tries to break an addiction and achieve lasting recovery.

Fortunately, it is possible. Many individuals’ experience in battling addiction demonstrates the grueling and often unpredictable nature of recovery, showing how it is rarely a linear path. Each attempt to quit, even if it results in relapse, can be a step forward that offers valuable insight into the importance of sticking with a recovery program.

Failed Attempts Aren’t Fruitless

It’s impossible to get through life without making any mistakes. History has been shaped by mistakes, and we are just as prone to making them as we are to exploring the world around us, seeking happiness and falling in love — they’re a part of the human experience. 

However, the important thing is that we learn from our mistakes, otherwise we will be doomed to repeat them. Learning from our mistakes is how we grow. After a relapse, it’s easy to feel discouraged, but relapses can also be a learning experience. They can show us which recovery strategies work, what our triggers are and which environments are high-risk for substance use. Moving forward, we hope that our next attempt will go more smoothly. 

For most people, relapses are a part of the long-term recovery process. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), as many as 40-60% of people being treated for substance use disorders relapse at some point in their recovery. While relapses can be dangerous and increase the risk of overdose, especially if an individual returns to their usual dose without a tolerance, sometimes these “failed” attempts at recovery can result in a person using less and practicing more harm reduction techniques. When they try again, they can build on what they’ve already learned to increase their chances of long-term success.  

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Warning Signs of Relapse

Changing your behavior isn’t easy, even when addictive substances aren’t involved. Most people who diet end up gaining the weight back, and most people abandon their New Year’s resolutions after just a few months. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself the best possible chance at being successful. One way you can do this involves learning to recognize the warning signs of relapse so you get help before it occurs.

Some early warning signs of relapse may include:

  • Neglecting Recovery Practices: Skipping meetings, canceling therapy sessions and not following through with recovery plans might be warning signs of relapse. 
  • Social Isolation: Withdrawing from supportive friends, family or recovery communities can be a red flag that a relapse may be near.
  • Stress: Not managing stress effectively can be a trigger for substance use.
  • Romanticizing Past Use: Romanticizing drugs or alcohol and thinking about past use in a positive light is a common trap that can lead to relapse.
  • Mood Swings: Experiencing significant changes in mood or mental health concerns like depression or anxiety can be a precursor to relapse.

If you feel like a relapse is on the horizon, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Talk to your support group, counselors or sponsor to help you navigate the situation. A proactive approach can help manage triggers or cravings and keep your sobriety intact.

Finding Support After Rehab

Recovery might not “stick” after completing rehab for the first time. And maybe not even the second. But if you have some patience, keep putting in the effort and continue working toward the goal of lasting sobriety (even after a relapse), it’s likely to happen. 

According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 75% of those who experience addiction eventually recover. The percentage is lower for severe substance use disorders, and while some people may succumb to their disease, the statistics provide a hopeful outlook. A few individuals who achieve recovery do so on their own, but most find it through programs that offer a combination of residential care, outpatient treatment and support groups — all of which are affordable and highly accessible options.

However, getting sober is only the beginning of the story. Maintaining long-term recovery involves ongoing work, effort and a strong commitment to building a healthier lifestyle. The transition from rehab back into the real world can be particularly challenging, so it's important to have the right support systems in place to reduce the risk of relapse.

Here are some ways to continue finding support after rehab:

12-Step Support Groups

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) help those in recovery connect with like-minded peers who understand what they’re going through. These groups are free and provide a platform for sharing experiences of strength and hope.  

Outpatient Care and Counseling

Continuing care through outpatient programs or individual counseling can provide the ongoing support and guidance needed to navigate the complexities of life after rehab.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

For certain types of addiction, such as opioids or alcohol, MAT can be an effective component of a recovery plan, helping to manage cravings and reduce the risk of relapse.

Alumni Programs

Many treatment centers offer alumni programs, which provide another way for individuals to connect with others after rehab. Alumni programs often involve participating in sober activities, increased accountability and ongoing support from peers and professionals.

Engaging in Healthy Activities

Building a lifestyle that includes physical activity, healthy eating and finding new hobbies or interests can provide a sense of joy and fulfillment that supports long-term recovery. 

Get Help Today

If you find yourself in the cycle of recovery and relapse, know that it's never too late to seek help. At NorthStar Transitions in Boulder, Colorado, we understand the courage it takes to confront addiction and the strength required to maintain a sober lifestyle. Our comprehensive approach to addiction treatment is designed to support you through every stage of your recovery, offering the tools and resources you need to succeed. To learn more about how we can help, call us today at 866-407-2240 to speak to our admissions team or get started by completing our online contact form.

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