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Rebuilding relationships and avoiding a relapse: new survey highlights recovering addicts’ greatest fears

  • The concerns of those in recovery are often not understood by those who have not experienced them
  • Priory Group surveyed people leaving their primary addiction services about their worries for the future
  • Secondary treatment is the bridge between getting clean and living sober
  • The “recovery family” is the key to managing the challenges of living clean and sober

Recovering from an addiction is a long-term process involving challenges which go far beyond simply ceasing an addictive behaviour. In some cases, it can mean rebuilding a person’s life from the ground up.

It can be hard for people who have not experienced these challenges to understand how hard recovery can be. Friends and family can become unfairly frustrated with a person who is trying to stay clean and sober, because they are unaware of the struggles they are facing. This, in turn, can derail their recovery.

To better understand the pressures people in recovery are facing, Priory Group surveyed users of their primary treatment programme, which is typically the 28-day inpatient stay designed to get people sober. The survey asked them what they were most concerned about when it came to taking the next step. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the single biggest worry for people leaving primary treatment was making sure they didn’t relapse back into their addiction; 82% of respondents  cited this as a concern.

The next most common concern was the process of rebuilding relationships with friends and family: 64% of respondents said they were concerned about this. The strain addiction can put on family relationships is immense. Andrea Taylor, who runs Priory Group’s secondary addiction care facility The Elphis,  for people who have completed primary treatment, explains that involving families in rehabilitation is “essential”, and if expectations can be correctly managed, it will “begin the journey of healing”. The Elphis is situated in Mill Hill, North London.

Managing “emotional regulation” might seem abstract, but it is of paramount importance during recovery, and was cited as a concern by 51% of the survey’s respondents. Andrea says “experiencing the joys and upset that comes with having relationships, and adapting to sobriety” is a key part of secondary treatment, and being part of a “recovery family” helps people deal with that.

Andrea says that a safe space, filled with people who understand what the person in recovery is going through, can help them cope with these pressures. She calls this support network the “recovery family”, who help her clients “put into action” the things they learnt in primary treatment.

50% of survey respondents cited managing self-esteem as a concern. People in recovery often suffer from low self-esteem, and this is where being surrounded by people who understand, and accept that, plays a vital role. Andrea explains that completing assignment work and experiencing treatment is the path to building up self-esteem. Being in a position to support others in a similar situation is also very helpful.

One of the most notoriously difficult aspects of recovery is learning to manage social situations, and 50% of respondents to the survey said this was something that concerned them. “Clients are supported by their therapist and group whilst experiencing potentially stressful social situations,” explains Andrea. Learning how to plan for social events, experiencing them whilst in treatment via home leave, and having an exit strategy if they become unmanageable, are all skills which are needed for those in recovery. It is here that having a “recovery family”, who can relate to the ups and the inevitable downs of this journey, can really make a difference.

Overcoming these fears sometimes requires treatment to provide a bridge between getting clean and sober and staying that way. The Elphis, which Andrea runs, provides this bridge. It offers people group and individual therapy, “built around their individual circumstances” to “ease the transition” back to the pressures of normal life. This can include the chance to go back to their jobs whilst living on site, and accessing group and 1-1 therapy, providing the all-important “safe space to come back to”.

Notes to editors

For further information or to arrange an interview with Andrea, please contact

Photos below are of Andrea Taylor, and of The Elphis secondary treatment facility.

About Priory Group

The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into four divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, adult care and the Middle East. The Priory Group is owned by NASDAQ-listed Acadia Healthcare, which is recognised as a global leader in behavioural health.

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