alcoholic relapse after long term sobriety

Dealing with Alcoholic Relapse After Long-term Sobriety

You have diligently—and with great fervor—embraced a sober life, notching many years on your recovery journey while dedicating your new life to remaining sober.  You may have logged a thousand A.A. meetings.  You may have achieved the fourth level of the SMART Recovery model.  You may even be a sponsor or mentor to those new in recovery, devoted to serving others in their quest for an abstinent lifestyle.

Whether you have 30 days sober under your belt or 30 years, relapse is an ever-present threat to sobriety. In fact, not to recognize and respect this fact constitutes a dangerous form of denial.  Alcohol addiction is a wily foe, never to be thought of as under control.  No matter how methodically you have managed your long-term recovery, every recovering alcoholic is vulnerable to relapse—especially if complacency has seeped in.

What Causes Alcoholic Relapse after Long-term Sobriety?

Considering all the many roads that can lead a person to become an alcoholic, it should not be surprising to learn that alcoholic relapse after long-term sobriety can be triggered by a myriad of situations and reasons.  Among the most common include:

  • Memory fades.  After a certain number of years, the hard edges of the memories associated with active addiction can soften.  Wistful memories of drinking may become romanticized, weakening your resolve and tricking you into drinking again.  
  • You stop participating in sober fellowship.  Whether it is a 12-step program or a non 12-step program, the connections with others also battling the monster of alcoholism helps give you the support and accountability needed to remain sober.
  • Co-occurring mental health disorder.  Some alcoholics suffer from an underlying mental health condition such as depression and anxiety.  Both the alcohol addiction and the mental health condition must be treated if recovery is to be sustained.
  • Inadequate coping strategies.  Life will continue to throw curveballs and challenges, no matter how long one has been sober.  Never having acquired the tools to cope with significant loss, trauma, or life’s difficulties makes you vulnerable to relapse.
  • You buy the lie.  One of the most common causes of alcoholic relapse after long-term sobriety is coming to believe that, since you have been sober so long, you can have a drink now and then.  Alcohol dependency is a lifelong condition that will never morph into an innocent recreational habit.

What to Do if You Relapse?

Let there be no doubt about it: Alcoholic relapse after long-time sobriety can lead to death.  This is because the body has adjusted to having no alcohol exposure for years, but the alcoholic mind stubbornly retains the memories of active addiction practices.  A relapse after a long period of sobriety can overwhelm the body with lethal toxins and cause alcohol poisoning.  Alcoholics also have very high rates of suicide, with depression accompanying a sense of failure and despair among those who relapse.

Recognizing that sobriety is the only option for living a full and satisfying life, it is imperative that the individual who relapsed return to treatment, therapy, a sober living environment, or fellowship meetings immediately.  It is common for there to be feelings of shame and guilt after a relapse, but that must not inhibit the individual from returning to the necessary recovery activities that will save one’s life.  Seek the support of loved ones and humbly do whatever it takes to reclaim sobriety.

Ranch Creek Recovery Can Help

If you have found yourself in the state of relapse, the compassionate treatment team at Ranch Creek Recovery will “walk the path” of recovery alongside you.  Focused on providing a holistic approach to treating alcoholism, the many therapeutic options available are designed to treat the mind, body and spirit, not just the disease.  Located in the serene hillsides of Temecula, California, Ranch Creek Recovery provides a natural setting in which to overcome addiction and heal.  For more information about our holistic treatment program, please call us today at (877) 997-8931.

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