Category: Relapse

Three substance abuse myths

Our society is full of myths and the internet and social media seems to those at a faster rate than ever before. The same is true of substance abuse – there are many myths about this disease. has a list of 10 common myths. Today we’ll look at three.

1 – Addiction is a moral failure 
We cannot deny that the use of an illicit drug is a poor decision. The expression “curiosity killed the cat” somewhat applies – for many, the curiosity of what it feels like to drink or experience the high of a drug is very tempting. Many will try a drug once and never again, their curiosity has been satisfied. Others will use again, but opt not to make it part of their lifestyle. Finally, there will be a group that becomes hooked on the drug. Is this a moral failure?

Millions of individuals became dependent on and addicted to the medications prescribed to them by their physician. This is certainly not a moral failure.

Addiction is caused by the body’s inability to process the drug/alcohol. The body becomes dependent on the substance causing severe withdrawal when the substance is not present.

2 – Addicts are easy to identify
Stereotyping has given people a certain image of those with an addiction. Many people envision the homeless man carrying his drink in a brown paper bag, minorities and criminals as the groups of people who they associate as addicts.

In reality, substance abuse impacts all socio economic groups and races. The CDC reports that rates of use among non-Hispanic whites nearly double all other groups. While not all individuals with a substance use disorder are criminals, criminal activity is often fueled by the need to get drugs. Finally, individuals making between $20,000 and $49,000 are showing rates of use that are higher than those who make less than $20,000.

3 – Relapse is a failure
Many people believe that because a person has relapse, they have failed. In reality, relapse is often part of the recovery process – see related blog.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

Gracie’s Emotional Rollercoaster

Some say that nothing in life is harder than having a family member or close friend who suffers from addiction. The worry and emotional stress is exhausting. I saw its toll a few years ago in my neighborhood.

After the housing bubble and crash, many of the modest 1950’s ranch style homes in my neighborhood went into foreclosure and were sold by banks to individuals able to pay cash. Some buyers fixed them up and re-sold them; others used the houses as rental units. Today’s story is about Gracie’s family, who rented a home down the street.

With out-of-state license plates on their car, they moved into the home late one summer. They appeared to be a young couple with one child, Gracie. As I pulled into my driveway after work one day, Gracie followed me on her bright yellow bicycle. She introduced herself and asked if I had any kids her age. I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have children, just cats.” She said she had two cats of her own and pedaled down the street in search of new friends. Gracie was a frequent visitor. She’d see us outside and stop by to say hello, sell items for the school fundraiser or, I believe, simply to alleviate boredom.

I didn’t meet Gracie’s parents until Halloween. They walked around as she went trick-or-treating, introducing themselves to neighbors. Gracie’s mom said, “hello, I’m Carol and I’m in recovery.” I was surprised by this…was that her “costume” for Halloween or was this for real? I responded with, “it’s nice to meet you Carol, how long have you been clean?” Two years she responded, congratulations I said, keep it up, never revealing that I work at a substance abuse treatment center.

Carol didn’t keep it up; she relapsed. Gracie was sent to live with a grandparent and her father, whose name I never knew, attempted to work full time and care for Carol. Still, I never told Carol where I worked; I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate for me to say something or mind my own business. I left some treatment brochures in their mailbox. As time went on, I noticed he became thinner and thinner. It seems that all of the energy he had once had been sucked right out of him. He looked almost frail. I worried he was using too. For a while, things seemed quiet at the house. I didn’t see either around and hoped Carol and gotten back on track. I believe she did because Gracie returned…and pedaled down to my house to visit. We talked about how she was, where she’d been and the new school year that was just starting. Her visits became more frequent, she liked helping me with projects in my yard and doing crafts. She seemed to crave one-on-one attention. I asked about her family from time to time, but she’d get quiet. I suspected whatever was happening in her home was not good. She never had obvious signs of abuse or neglect, such as bruises, and always appeared to be clean and well dressed. I’d offer snacks during her visits, but she never accepted unless ice cream was mentioned. Still, my heart ached for this girl. I could see she was lonely and hurting and maybe afraid. I feared her life was a never-ending emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows completely out of her control.  My home provided a short respite from the things at her home.

One late November morning, my husband and I awoke to find our street filled with emergency responders, an ambulance, fire trucks, police…they were all at Gracie’s house. A few phone calls to other neighbors confirmed my worst fear; Gracie’s mother had died from an overdose, and to make matters worse, Gracie found the body. It was a few days before I saw her again. Eyes swollen and puffy from crying, Gracie hugged me and said she was going to her grandmother’s home for Christmas. She never returned. Her father packed their things and in January, a new “for rent” sign appeared in front of the home.

Did Gracie’s rollercoaster ride end with her mother’s passing or does she simply have a new normal? I’ll never know. Does she receive the love and emotional support she craves from her grandmother and father? What is her new environment like? What does she comprehend about her mother’s death? I will always have these questions since I have no way of locating Gracie.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

“Fluffy” or “Fido” and your addiction

Several blogs and articles have appeared online recently about people in recovery how animanls have helped their recovery. One woman stated that before seeking treatment for her addiction, she’d divorced her husband, let him take the family cats and attempted suicide. Once she completed a treatment program, she felt like something was missing in her life. A conversation with her aftercare counselor led her to the decision that the time was right to adopt a pet. She adopted two kittens from a shelter, siblings. Knowing these young animals depended on her, helped keep her from relapsing on some particularly hard days. Caring for these cats forced her to stay clean, hold a job so she could stay in a nice, pet-friendly apartment. They also helped alleviate the depression and loneliness she had been feeling, which easily could have led her to a relapse.

In many cases, treatment professionals advise clients not to enter into new relationships or make any drastic changes in their lives for the first year of recovery. They say you need to focus on your recovery and learning to take care of yourself. If you need to nurture something, start with something simple like a houseplant. However, when you are ready for a more committed human-pet relationship, here are five good reasons pets will help you in recovery.

1 – Pet owners are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure and are not as stressed as non-pet owners. Think of the joy animals bring when they are taken to nursing homes to visit the residents and all of the programs that use pet therapy – pets are calming.

2 – New sober activities – if you have a dog, you will need to walk the dog and may take it to the pet park. These activities can allow you to be acquainted with new individuals and keep your mind busy rather than wanting to use. On top of that, a good dog walk or time spent playing catch in the park is good exercise for both you and your dog.

3 – Love – your pet does not care if you had a good day or a bad day, they love you unconditionally. While people can be insensitive and say/do mean spirited things, your pet never will.

4 – Responsibility – As mentioned earlier, when you have a pet, you have someone else who is dependent on you, requiring you to be responsible about providing them food, shelter and at times, medical attention.

5 – Accountability – one article of a pet owner in recovery stated that he believed his dog recognized behavior changes and knew when the man had been drinking. He claimed that he felt the dog looked at him with disappointed eyes. In his opinion, the dog held him accountable for his actions.

Related Blog:  Addiction and Family

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.


Relapse can be part of the recovery process

Often, treatment facilities are asked to provide their success rates.

First of all, that is challenging because there are so many ways to measure success.  Is success the percentage of people who successfully complete their program?  Is success the number of people who stay clean for six weeks, six months or a year after treatment, or is success measured as those who maintain long-term sobriety of five years or more?

Secondly, sadly, sometimes relapse is part of the treatment process.  Using the disease model of treating substance abuse and accepting that it is a brain-based disease much like diabetes or hypertension, to a degree, relapse is part of the learning process.  However, with substance abuse the impact can be far greater and hit much faster.

For example, if you are diabetic, you have been provided with a special diet of what you can and cannot eat.  It’s your birthday and you’ve been following your diet on a regular basis, but you really want a piece of birthday cake.  What do you do?  Some, who have been diabetic for a long period of time aren’t going to rock the boat of their diet and will have that bowl of sugar-free ice cream.  Others say, one piece of cake isn’t going to kill me.

Now, let’s say you are an alcoholic.  It’s your birthday and you’ve gathered with some friends to celebrate.  They don’t know you are in recovery.  One offers to buy you a beer.  You need to make a decision, fast.  How will one drink affect you and your recovery process?

The answer depends on several factors.  Maybe you say yes, have one beer and tell your friends that you need to stop – you have an early morning.  As soon as you leave, you call your sponsor and discuss what happened.  The next day, you go speak to your sponsor again and go to an AA meeting.  You are very careful to steer clear of those who may encourage you to drink and spend more times in meetings.  Maybe this is simply a momentary lapse and you right the course quickly.

Another option is that you accept the invitation to have a beer, and have multiple drinks before the night is over.  You feel guilty and know you should call your sponsor, but you had so much fun with your friends, you realized how much you miss them.  One night of drinking leads to two, you miss meetings, ignore calls from your sponsor and in six weeks, you are back in full addiction leaving your loved ones wondering what went wrong.

Scenario three is optimal.  You went to a treatment program and did well, but relapsed after 10 months of staying clean.  You incur a traffic infraction, which sends you back to a treatment facility.  Again, you do well, but this time around, you pay much more attention to the triggers that could cause you to relapse.  Upon completing the program, you surround yourself by people who are supportive of your efforts in recovery, and when your next birthday comes around, you enjoy an alcohol-free dinner and evening cheering for your favorite sports team.  You’ve learned from your past mistakes, you’ve grown in your recovery and you understand how much there is to lose if you go back to a life of drinking.

Pathways Florida has 28-day and extended stay residential treatment programs for those challenged with alcohol and drug use.  For more information, call 855-349-5988.


5 Tips to Prevent Relapse

Relapse is a common factor of the recovery process. Here are some tips to help you stay sober and avoid relapse.

Related Blog: Five Common Reasons People Relapse

  1. Know your triggers
    Maybe your trigger is a person, place or thing. Maybe your trigger is a neighborhood or environment. When possible, avoid your triggers. If you work in sales and would typically have a drink to celebrate closing a big deal, you need to have a plan of a new way to celebrate this accomplishment. This is a trigger and unless you change careers, you will have to make adaptions for your new sober lifestyle.
  2. Develop your support network
    Your support network can be made up of people that are and are not part of the recovery community. You develop your network by going to aftercare and 12-Step meetings, spending free time with family members who are not drinking or using drugs and by meeting people at drug-free and alcohol free events/environments. These individuals should be aware of your triggers and be comfortable keeping you accountable for your actions.
  3. Structure and routine
    Having a structured life and routine that does not include much downtime that could lead to relapse is key. As simple as it sounds, the routine of getting up, making breakfast, making the beds, showering and preparing to go to work, working, exercise, 12-step or aftercare meetings, journaling, child care, preparing meals, etc. can really help. Set a routine and follow it. Keep your days full and use downtime wisely.
  4. Aftercare
    Attending aftercare and 12-Step meetings plays a key role in maintaining recovery. Aftercare helps people in recovery stay focused, avoid triggers, and develop support networks. It should be part of the structure and routine you have created to maintain sobriety.
  5. Journaling/meditating
    Everyone has a different way of dealing with the daily stresses they face. While those in active addiction will use drugs or alcohol to cope with stress, those in recovery are urged to find other coping mechanisms. Two of these tools are journaling and meditating. Journaling allows the writer to honestly write down thoughts, experiences, fears and feelings. Meditating combats negative feelings by creating a relaxed state.

Pathways Florida provides a comprehensive 28-day residential substance abuse treatment program. Compassionate, caring counselors at Pathways are trained in the latest evidence-based techniques and will work with you to develop a treatment and aftercare plan that works. For more information, please call 855-349-5988.

Why Did I Relapse?

Relapse is not uncommon for those in recovery. Some say that it often takes a series of relapses before someone is truly successful in the recovery world. Often, success means making great changes in your lifestyle – who your associates are, where you live, where you work, as well as “unlearning” inappropriate behaviors that could result in substance use.

Recovery is a process. Generally, the process begins with admitting that there is a problem, detoxing, getting treatment for the issue, developing a plan for aftercare, transition and relapse prevention and finally living a life of recovery.

Related Blog: What Should I Do If I Have a Sponsor and I’m Still Using?

In order for the recovery process to be successful, clients need to engage with their counselors and others in the recovery community. Additionally, if internal issues, such as a trauma that may have led to the initial substance abuse, are not fully addressed, the chances of relapse increase.

Some counselors suggest clients change everything, even music, friends, jobs, living arrangements etc. Music has a great ability to trigger thoughts and feelings. If you had a favorite song you liked to hear when you were high, don’t listen to that song. If your friends used drugs, use ties to the recovery community to make friends with individuals who will support your efforts rather than sabotage them. If you are an alcoholic working in an establishment that serves alcohol, you may want to look for other employment, if drug use is normal part of life in your neighborhood, consider moving to a transitional, sober or half-way house arrangement as you grow and strengthen your resolve to stay clean.

They key to relapse prevention is knowing your triggers and working the program and aftercare program outlined for you by your counselors on a daily basis. In some cases, repeated treatment episodes will be necessary until you are able to make recovery a full part of your lifestyle.

Pathways Florida provides a comprehensive 28-day residential substance abuse treatment program. Compassionate, caring counselors at Pathways are trained in the latest evidence-based techniques and will work with you to develop a treatment and aftercare plan that works. For more information, please call 855-349-5988 or visit our website.