Having a loved one enter treatment for addiction gives one a great deal of hope.
Families view it as the ‘cure’. One round of treatment and their loved one’s are fixed. Families look at it in the same way as going into the hospital for treatment of an illness. You’re discharged, and the problem is solved. Not necessarily so in the case of addiction.
We have to look at addiction treatment similar to cancer treatment. The person who is addicted is admitted to treatment. If they respond well, they enter into remission. There, they are taught how to face their addiction, deal with their thinking, and how they turn to their addiction as a way of dealing with things. They learn how to face themselves, their lives, their problems, with out using. Most of all they learn the tools necessary to help them not use. They learn the tools so that they can stay away from using, yes, for the rest of their lives. Basically, as the case with someone who has cancer, they enter into remission.
Just as in the case with cancer, there are things that they have to do to keep maintaining their sobriety, their lives of not using. So that they remain in remission of addiction. Their addiction, using can return, if they don’t use the tools they learned. They may start using again. We call this a relapse.
For the family, this is devastating! They feel let down, angry, betrayed, their hopes smashed. Trust is gone. The old feeling you had when your loved one’s were using have returned and more.
From a professional perspective, we don’t view relapse as failure. We have come to accept and see relapse as a valuable tool for learning for the person who has entered into recovery. You may think it strange, nevertheless, it’s a path which happens to many, and in the majority of cases, though always upsetting, does have it’s advantages.
To begin with, it show’s the addict just how vulnerable they are. Just how easy it is for them to return to using, just how important it is for them to maintain the tools which they have learned, just how valuable their recovery is, just how quickly they can return to addiction.
With a professional, they take a strong and honest look at themselves, and at their recovery.
What was working, what wasn’t working. What were they doing, and in the majority, if not all the cases, what weren’t they doing. Most of all what they need to do.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am in no way condoning a relapse. By all means, and at all costs, it does need to be avoided, there is always help in doing so. However, should it happen, it can be turned around into something devastating into a very powerful learning tool, which does help the addict to have a stronger recovery.