Jun 16, 2023

Why Do Addicts Relapse When Things Are Good? Top Reasons

Addiction recovery and addiction relapse triggers are complex. There’s also a complex paradox that comes in the recovery landscape. This paradox is that relapses often happen during stable periods. To better understand this phenomenon, we first need to dive into addiction relapse triggers. We’ll explore how psychological, emotional, and circumstantial factors can all affect recovery. 

The Paradox of Relapse in Times of Stability

Relapse during stability seems counterintuitive. If you’re already doing well, why change it, right? Well, there’s more to it. This exact paradox highlights how complex addiction actually is. It helps show that it’s not necessarily about the physical substance. That it’s also about the psychological factors in addiction relapse. These factors will significantly contribute to this occurrence.

Understanding the Complexity of Addiction Relapse

Addiction is most commonly associated with emotional pain and underlying issues or trauma. When these issues remain unresolved, they can act as triggers. These triggers can push an individual back into old habits, even in times of relative stability. This is why recognizing and addressing them is critical. Making sure they’re addressed is critical for the individual to sustain recovery. 

Addiction relapse isn’t a singular event. It’s a gradual process that has multiple stages to it. It can range from simply having a craving to use, to romanticizing previous use. Sometimes individuals can have a mental or emotional relapse far before they physically use it. It’s also important to remember that relapse means active recovery efforts have stopped. Lapses happen, but it’s important to get back up and get back into treatment. 

The Influence of Psychological Triggers in Relapse

Psychological triggers, also known as internal triggers, range from thoughts to feelings, and behaviors of an individual. These thoughts or feelings serve to remind the individual about substance use. This is a reminder of past substance use. Additionally, these triggers tend to be very deeply ingrained. This depth can mean that in times of stability, relapses can still be possible, even likely.

Complacency and Overconfidence: A Risk Factor for Relapse

Motivation is critical for maintaining sobriety. During stable periods, individuals can gain false confidence, or become complacent. This overconfidence and relapse are often intertwined. This is also common in people who have been sober for a long time. They begin to feel as though they’ve mastered their addiction.

This is the root of the most dangerous complacency. Complacency brings relapse susceptibility, which means vigilance is paramount in recovery. Stability also means the individual may feel the least prepared for such a challenge.

Emotional Turmoil: The Need for Self-Sabotage in Addiction

Another reason many addicts relapse during stability is emotional turmoil. Emotional turmoil and relapse are intimately linked. Some individuals will even self-sabotage. These individuals often have a subconscious fear of happiness, comfort, or success.

This fear leads to self-sabotage, often by placing themselves in a high-risk situation. The self-sabotage leads to relapse. In some cases, the individual may just not have developed the coping skills they should have. Perhaps in treatment, they weren’t given the chance to practice implementing those strategies. In either case, when emotions or stress run high, the chance of relapse is greatest.

Coping with Success: The Fear of Losing Control

A major fear for anyone is the fear of losing control. The fear of losing control in addiction recovery can be terrifying. It can represent a significant challenge to maintaining long-term sobriety. Countless individuals in recovery struggle with their success. This leads to growing feelings of anxiety, fear, and, eventually, even relapse. Thus, learning to cope with success is one of the essential recovery skills. 

Without the ability to cope with success, relapsing becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The individual is able to maintain their recovery for a substantial period. Then they start to get self-conscious about their success and fear losing control over it. This allows minor feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, and more to grow. Eventually, leading to a relapse.

The Role of Underlying Issues: Unresolved Trauma and Relapse

Underlying issues and relapse risk are often closely related. Past traumas and unresolved emotional issues can lead to relapse, easily. This underscores the importance of holistic approaches to relapse prevention. This holistic approach addresses the underlying issues, as well as substance abuse. This can be thought of as trauma-informed care on one hand. On the other hand, it is also similar to dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder treatment.

Breaking the Cycle: Building Resilience in Times of Stability

One of the keys to breaking the cycle of addiction is building resilience. Building resilience can be challenging, however. One popular way that individuals in recovery build resilience is by joining an outpatient program. Outpatient programs can help recovering individuals build the emotional tools they need to succeed. These tools help them to respond healthily to triggers. It also helps them build a supportive network, which contributes to sobriety.

The Importance of Continued Support in Sustaining Recovery

Consistent, ongoing support from professionals as well as peers is vital. This support helps improve recovery outcomes, boosting the chances of long-term success. A major component of this is a high-quality aftercare program from your treatment center. This aftercare will provide essential recovery resources to help long-term recovery. 

These include ongoing counseling and support groups. In some cases, depending on the treatment program, individuals may also have a medication component. This is common in medication-assisted treatment. It’s also used frequently in other treatment programs to help balance neurotransmitters.

Nurturing Well-being Beyond Sobriety

Recovery isn’t just about getting sober. It’s about staying sober. But it’s also about nurturing your overall well-being. With the right insights, you can understand your addiction much more clearly.

If you or someone you care about is recovering from addiction but faces relapse risk, reach out today. The addiction and relapse experts at the Massachusetts Center for Addiction can help. Manage your withdrawal symptoms and make big lifestyle changes. Let us help you find yourself in sobriety. Contact us today to get started or for more information.

MCA Staff
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