Ever wonder why someone goes back to drinking or doing drugs after getting clean and sober? To an outside observer, this process of “falling off the wagon” or relapsing often doesn’t make any sense, especially if the alcoholic or addict has either been sober for a long time or has recently just left treatment. But to an alcoholic or addict, the process of relapse may have been in the works for a long time and in fact, may seem quite reasonable and rational to them. To understand why it is helpful to understand some of the common reasons that someone “falls off the wagon.”
Common Reasons for Relapse
- Don’t believe that they are an alcoholic or addict – Many people have difficulty accepting that they have a drinking problem or that drugs are a problem for them. They often feel that they just let things get “a little out of control” and that they will be able to manage their usage in the future. As a result, they start drinking again with the expectation that “this time things will be different.”
- Don’t want to quit drinking or doing drugs – Unfortunately, many people simply do not want to quit drinking or doing drugs. If a person leaves treatment and starts drinking on their way home, it is a good sign that they never really wanted to quit in the first place. They were only trying to appease those around them and were waiting for their first opportunity to use again.
- Don’t know how to cope with emotions – Many people quit learning how to deal with emotions when they start drinking or doing drugs. This often occurs because the primary tool they use to cope is alcohol or drugs. Take away the substances and you take away their primary coping strategy. As a result, when they start feeling emotions, they go back to the tool they have used the most.
- Mental health problems – If a person has underlying mental health problems such as depression or bipolar disorder, they may have difficulty stabilizing their mood. As a result, they may use alcohol or drugs as a way of self-medicating. Unfortunately, this strategy only creates more instability.
- Pride – Many people feel like they should be able to control their own substance use and, as a result, have trouble admitting that alcohol or drugs have control over them.
- Boredom – If you don’t know what to do with your time, alcohol and drug use can be appealing. You can kill a lot of time when you are drunk or high.
- Aren’t willing to ask for help – One of the most useful components of recovery is realizing that you don’t have to do it alone. Unfortunately, many people simply don’t want to ask for help.
- Relationship conflicts – Whenever conflicts arise, many people return to drinking or doing drugs to “get away from it all.” Unfortunately, relapse tends to lead to more conflict rather than less.
- Lack of preparation – Many people are confronted with social situations where drinking is an expected part of the event. If you don’t have a plan for how to cope with this situation, it is easy to get pulled into the “party”.
- Distorted thinking – Many people that “fall off the wagon” start thinking about using long before they take their first drink. Despite the evidence to the contrary, by the time they use it, they have already convinced themselves that it “won’t be that bad” or that “everyone else can drink, so why can’t they”.
It is important to realize that recovery is a process. If you or someone you know has “fallen off the wagon”, it doesn’t mean that the moments of sobriety that you had before are meaningless or that you can’t return to a life of sobriety. For some people, a relapse is a thing that makes it clear to them that they are, in fact, an alcoholic or addict. This can be a turning point in their recovery which can lead to more lasting sobriety. Unfortunately, for others, relapse leads to more suffering and self-destructive behavior. An alcoholic or addict that is using again may spiral out of control quickly or they may begin a slow decline into the insanity of addiction. If you have “fallen off the wagon”, don’t wait to find out where you will end up. Get back into recovery as quickly as possible. The faster the better. Remember, that recovery starts one step at a time and the journey begins one day at a time.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.