Part II: An Overview of Relapse

=An Overview of Relapse

This is a guest blog post by Michael V. Pantalon, PhD, Yale Psychologist, Addiction & Motivation Expert, Speaker, Coach and author of INSTANT INFLUENCE: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything—Fast! (Little, Brown & Co., May, 2011).

Many people who enter into recovery (i.e., abstinence from their drug of abuse/dependence & engaged in treatment) will relapse at one point or another.  Though this seems like bad news, the flip side is that relapse can be a manageable part of recovery – some have even said that it has helped them solidify what they need to do in order for it to never happen again.  How did these people benefit from the pain of relapse?  What kernels of wisdom and insight might they have gleaned from it?  And how did their family and significant others help them through that process?

Well, while everyone’s relapse is different to some extent, there are some fairly predictable dynamics that family members should be aware of if they would like to help steer the affected individual through it as easily as possible and in a way that important lessons can be learned and applied in the future.

This is the opposite of the “One-drink-One-drunk” adage that says that the moment an alcoholic who has been in recovery for a period of time (even a long period of time, say 15 years) has a single drink or even sip, they return immediately back to the drunk they were 15 years ago.

While relapses can often set in motion a series of events both environmentally and biochemically that can eventually lead someone back to their worst point or lower, there is no scientific evidence that it happens immediately or that it is inevitable.  In fact, the scientific literature more clearly states that the manner in which the affected person, as well as significant other around him, HANDLES the relapse is much more predictive of how things will go in the future.

So, it’s not simply the relapse that causes problems, but how it’s handled.  That said, the reverse is also true (and much more positive and hopeful)…”The better the affected person and his significant others handle the relapse, the better he will do in the future (e.g., the shorter the relapse, the quicker the time back to treatment).”

How have you and your family members handled relapse in the past?  Did it work?  Please share with us in the comments section.

Related Links:

Part I: Dealing With Your Teen’s Relapse from Drug and Alcohol Addiction

My Own Daughter’s Relapse

Addiction is a Chronic Medical Disease

12 Responses

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    Elaine

    June 26, 2016 at 1:58 PM

    This article was not helpful. It didn’t explain how to successfully handle a relapse.

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    Marilyn

    January 2, 2014 at 6:31 PM

    Interesting article. It says:
    “…there are some fairly predictable dynamics that family members should be aware of if they would like to help steer the affected individual through it as easily as possible and in a way that important lessons can be learned and applied in the future….”

    What are these dynamics and how can family members help their addicts with these issues?

    Thank you.

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