Exploring Recovery and Relapse

By Terence T. Gorski,

People learn almost everything as a result of trial and error. We decide we want to do something, get some training or instruction, and then give it a try. Most people, even professionals, collect a large tally of failures before they succeed.

This is also some true in learning how to manage chromic life-style diseases. Addiction, of course, is a lifestyle-related disease with similar rates of recovery and relapse to other lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Let’s explore recovery and relapse from addiction as a progressive learning process.

People learn that they are addicted though periods of loss of control and attempts to control drinking. These failures to control prompt people to attempt abstinence, usually without professional or 12-Step Help. Some of these people make it into long-term recovery but I have no current numbers.

Most people, however, find that abstinence without recovery/treatment causes a progressive build-up of unnecessary pain and problems that impairs judgment and self/control and start using again. Does this constitute a relapse episode or a continuation of untreated addiction? There is no professional consensus.

Many people fail to stay sober without help. Most end up at AA or another’s 12-Step Program

AA surveys of membership show that:
1. 48% stay sober.
more the five ears.
2. 22% 1- 5 years.
3. 30% less than a year.
4. Average Sobriety of most members is more than 7 years

Having a sponsor increases recovery rates to 77% and consistently attending a home group meeting raises it to 88%.

Many (61%) of recovering people receive help before starting AA and 74% say they were directed to AA by a treatment provider.

64% received some type of treatment or counseling such as medical, psychological, spiritual, etc. 85% of those who sought Professsional treatment after starting AA said that it played an important part of their recovery. (www.soberrecovery.com)

Studies that follow people who complete treatment for 20 to 40 years after treatment shows that people fall into three groups of life-long recovery:

1. Recovery Prone (they do not have an alcohol or drug relapse episode)

2. Transitionally Relapse Prone (they have one to five relapse episodes but then achieve long-term recovery). These persons seem to learn something new from each relapse episode and appropriately change their recovery program to accommodate what they learned.

3. Chronically Relapse Probe who continue to periodically relapse although many do achieve longer periods of higher quality abstinence over time while others have progressively more frequent, longer, and more severe consequence from relapses episodes leading to progressive decline and eventual death from addiction or related problems.

There is evidence that Relapse Early Intervention Plans can shorten the duration of a relapse and lower its consequences making it easier to get back into recovery.

Relapse Prevention methods that focus upon learning the skills needed to identify and manage early relapse warning signs can increase recovery rates and decrease relapse rates.

Chronically relapse prone patients often have coexisting disorders such as depression or other affective disorders and have a problematic profile of socio-economic problems including child abuse.

Poly-drug addiction, new and more addictive medications, and the fact that more people are offered medication as a substitute for addiction counseling and other forms of psychotherapy makes relapse more likely.

I know of no treatment that produces anywhere near 100% abstinent. Addiction is a chronic lifestyle-rated illness that changes many times over the course of a lifetime.

Relapse does not mean permanent treatment failure. Many people relapse and learn important lessons that lead to the achieving long-term recovery.

Composite studies of relapse and recovery rates cannot be trusted because their is no universally-recognized standard for when recovery begins, what constitutes recovery (if you don’t drink but commit suicide is that successful addiction recovery?) and what constitutes relapse (caffeine and nicotine are drugs. Does using them mean you relapsed?)

Live Sober – Be Responsible – Live Free

One Response to Exploring Recovery and Relapse

  1. Guy Lamunyon says:

    The AA dropout rate is 75 percent in the first year. A recent Faces and Voices survey reports 20 percent are using non 12 step methods to recover.

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