Chronic relapse: how to break the cycle
Chronic relapse is when a person has tried to put a stop to their active addiction numerous times but has continued to return to their addictive behaviours after these attempts.
If someone you care about is a ‘chronic relapser’, we understand that this can be incredibly painful to live with. You are probably exhausted and worn down, having had to go through many difficult scenarios and a lot of emotional ups and downs during your time with the person.
Within this blog, we will look at the common reasons why chronic relapse can happen and the steps that can be taken to help a person achieve a long and sustained recovery.
Chronic relapse is not a sign of failure
It is important to note that chronic relapse is not a sign that recovery isn’t possible. This is never the case. With the right support and treatment, recovery is achievable for everyone.
Chronic relapse can happen for many reasons, and some of these include:
- Being in an environment where the object of their addiction is present
- Experiencing and succumbing to a trigger such as a place, a person or an emotion
- Being ill equipped to deal with triggers, urges and cravings
- Having underlying mental health conditions that haven’t been effectively treated
- Having underlying thoughts and emotions that haven’t been properly addressed
- Not accessing or not having access to an adequate level of support
When a person relapses, they will often feel guilty and ashamed about what they have done. These emotions can then cause them to sink even further into their addiction, and also result in them denying or trying to hide their relapse from the people that they are close to.
Treatment options for chronic relapse
With chronic relapse, it is often recommended that a person accesses long-term professional support.
For people in this situation, they may be resistant to this, particularly if they believe that it will never work for them. But with access to suitable therapeutic treatment and the right environment, recovery is possible.
How a residential treatment programme promotes long-term recovery
Following on from a detoxification process if it is required, a person who has experienced chronic relapse will typically enter a residential programme where they will work closely with a therapeutic team, looking at how things can change to avoid further relapses.
When working with chronic relapse residents, our addiction teams at Priory Group focus on the following elements:
- If the person wants to stop and the reasons that prompt them to want to stop
- The changes they want to make to their life
- What has and hasn’t worked for them in the past
The team work with the person to find out if and why they want to give up their addictive behaviours, helping them to recognise the impact it has had on their family or work, their health and their self-esteem. They will also explore what will happen if things don’t change.
The notion of change can be so frightening for someone in active addiction. Our residential programme gives a person the time, space and professional support that they need to be able to look at and address the fears that are stopping them from taking the best steps forward.
During their time in one of our residential treatment programmes, they can also access the following:
- Mental health support and treatment from a consultant psychiatrist if it is required
- A team of experienced therapists
- Group and one-to-one therapy sessions
- Family sessions
- Seminars, workshops and individual working time
- A regimented relapse prevention plan
- Aftercare support groups following on from the residential stay
- An introduction to support organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
There is also our family therapy programme. Through these sessions, family members have the opportunity to learn more about addiction and get the support that they need after dealing with the chronic relapse of someone close to them.
Secondary addiction services for support after a residential treatment programme
When a person is a ‘chronic relapser’, it is often recommended that they go on to attend a secondary care addiction service after a rehabilitation treatment programme.
Priory Group’s secondary addiction care service – The Elphis – is located in Mill Hill, North London.
At The Elphis, people have the opportunity to practise and embed the strategies that they learnt during their time in the residential programme, and slowly start to pick up their life and responsibilities with the support of the secondary care addiction team.
Outpatient therapy sessions
For someone who has experienced chronic relapse, it is important for them to have a strong support system when they enter recovery.
Family therapy sessions following on from a residential treatment programme can be beneficial. Family therapy can help a person to recognise that people do care about them and want to help them. It allows everyone to come together to develop strategies for life going forward. People have the space to talk and work together to make positive steps towards sustained recovery. It also gives people an opportunity to strengthen relationships that may have been affected by the addiction.
Ongoing one-to-one therapy sessions may also be valuable for someone who has experienced chronic relapse and is now in recovery. It provides that person with a safe, supportive space where they can explore and address any concerns or issues in a healthy, positive way.