Relapse – the nasty reality of recovery

Working in recovery is difficult- not because of the needs of the people, or the time spent counseling, or even all the on call hours that are necessary to help someone kick their addiction- the real hurdle is relapse.  Relapse is an true part of recovery. The national institute on drug abuse reports that “40 to 60 percent of persons suffering from addiction will relapse.”  The issue here is that most do not understand why a relapse occurs.

Looking at heroin, which is a form of morphine, it floods the brain’s “joy receptors” or “pleasure centers,” allowing the body to become flooded with dopamine, producing an unnatural amount of joy.  The reason that “kicking the habit” is so difficult is because that very first high changes the brain’s chemistry.  One use of heroin alters how your body reacts to joy, which is why heroin users must use more and more, and also why they find joy in little to nothing else other than drug use. Other drugs are similar in that they alter the brain’s pleasure center and make it more difficult for addicts to find pleasure in the everyday things… their brain chases an unnatural pleasure through the drug – a high that nothing else can truly come close to in comparison.

This leads me to my next point, the relapse.

Relapse is a part of recovery, as indicated earlier, their brain is infected by a disease. A disease that will win every time and that people really do not have the power to overcome if they are in particular situations.

The question then becomes- what do we do now?

Well, that’s relatively simple in text, but extremely difficult in practice.  So, how do successful recovery organizations do it? How does REAL LIFE address this issue? We re-train the brain. We follow a behavior modification approach.  We allow time for the receptors to regenerate and train the brain to think a different way. Each time there is a relapse, it sets the person back one step further from that regeneration and healing.  They key to overcoming addiction is to give the brain enough time to rebuild, and to train the brain to not turn to substances to cope.

This is where behavior modification comes in. There are programs that focus on training the brain to think differently, cognitive behavioral change, and to respond to pressures that people come into contact with in everyday life.  This is how REAL LIFE influences change in the lives of those who suffer from the disease of addiction.  Educating those with a substance use disorder and arming them with the tools to cope and to thrive in a world that they have not been an active participant in. And for those who battle addiction, this may sound easy, but we know it is not. It is very difficult. There is often relapse or set backs. There are hardships and steps that must be followed, but with the proper guidance, and by being committed, this ugly thing called addiction can be overcome!