07 Sep If My Loved One Relapsed, What’s the Point of Trying Again?
It can be very frustrating for family members whose loved one has gone through treatment only to relapse. Many wonder whether it’s even worth it to enroll the patient in treatment again. The truth about addiction recovery is that there is no single path for every patient, no absolute guarantee that this time the treatment will “take.” Just as important, however, is the fact that some people may need multiple treatments in order to be confident enough and practiced enough in utilizing what they’ve learned during treatment to stay clean and sober in recovery.
Addiction isn’t like a broken leg, where doctors can set the break and apply a cast and after a generalized period of time, the leg mends and is as good as new. Addiction is a disease, and, like all diseases, such as cancer or heart disease or diabetes, may require a long-term and multifaceted care approach. With addiction – like other diseases – different treatment modalities may be used that may or may not prove effective. Different medications may be tried, alone or in combination with other pharmacologic treatments. What works for one patient may not be as effective for the next.
Why is that? Simply put, addiction is unique to each individual. Even those who have the same disease of alcoholism or are addicted to cocaine or heroin or methamphetamines or prescription drugs used nonmedically may react differently to similar types of treatment. Some of this has to do with biological factors – heredity, genetics – and some may have to do with the patient’s environment, conditioning, peer pressure, drug availability, duration of addiction, type or types of addiction (multiple addiction, substance abuse with co-occurring mental disorder or process addiction), frequency of use, and general state of health or presence of other medical conditions.
Reasons to Consider Additional Treatment
You may be asking yourself why you should bother with a second treatment program, since the first one failed. There are actually several reasons to consider additional treatment.
• Neither you nor the patient may know for sure why treatment wasn’t effective, but, according to addiction recovery experts, most of the time, something valuable has been gained through the treatment experience.
For a period of time, your loved one was abstinent, mind clear, unclouded by drugs or alcohol. He or she – perhaps for the first time in many months or years – was able to begin to learn about the disease of addiction. That’s a huge plus. But knowledge alone is not enough. Knowing what you have isn’t all you need to overcome addiction or maintain sobriety.
• Motivation is an important contributor to treatment effectiveness. It may be that your loved one only went through the motions of participating in treatment. This is often true in the case of long-term or so-called hard-core addictions. Addicts can be forced into treatment, by court-order, as a result of a family- or employer-issued ultimatum. That doesn’t mean that they’ll fully benefit from the treatment. Some do and some don’t.
In order to maximize the likelihood of success, the patient must fully commit to overcoming his or her addiction. Learning how to manage the disease has to be a priority. Without motivation, following treatment, there’s little incentive to stay clean and sober. After relapse, the resulting negative consequences to the patient may eventually convince him or her that giving treatment a second chance may be the best option.
• Long-term damage caused by the addiction may have left your loved one with cognitive difficulties, an inability to remember things, lack of understanding, difficulty processing information and putting it to use. Research studies show, however, that the brain can rehabilitate itself, given time. Brain cells that were damaged due to excessive and/or prolonged alcohol or drug use may regenerate, or other brain cells may take over. Brain structure and functioning has been shown to improve in most alcoholics within a year of abstinence, although some may take longer.
If your loved one was only in short-term treatment, perhaps a longer duration treatment program is advisable.
• Many newcomers to recovery feel apprehensive and lack confidence about their ability to handle their new life in sobriety. More time spent in treatment may be necessary to build up their confidence level so that they’re better able to identify and recognize triggers, and have more practice in utilizing coping strategies to deal with recurring cravings and urges.
In addition, relapse prevention training may need to be reinforced with continuing counseling. All this can occur with a return to treatment.
• Most of all, you want the best for your loved one. You want to give him or her every opportunity to achieve the goal of sobriety. Naturally, you want to see some improvement, to be able to see that your loved one is making progress toward abstinence and learning how to deal with life without resorting to drugs or alcohol. Encouraging your loved one to return to treatment and supporting his or her decision to do so is the most important thing you can do at this time.
Will Treatment Ever Be Successful?
There are many different types of addiction treatment facilities. It may be that your loved one attended a treatment program at a facility that didn’t specialize in the type or combination of addictions he or she has. If it was treatment on an outpatient basis, that may not be sufficient to adequately treat his or her long-term, dual diagnosis, or multiple addictions.
Perhaps a residential treatment facility is better suited to his or her needs. If you are considering residential treatment, be sure that the facility specializes in and has appropriate staff to accommodate your loved one’s needs and will tailor a personalized treatment plan. Find out what other services are provided in the treatment program. Does it include on-site, 24-hour medically supervised detoxification? What types of treatment modalities are used? What services are also included? What are extra-cost services? Is aftercare or continuing care included in the treatment program and what does it consist of? How long does aftercare continue?
You may believe that additional treatment is too expensive, or that your insurance doesn’t cover it. Don’t let cost stand in the way of getting appropriate treatment for your loved one’s addiction. If you discuss your situation with the addiction treatment facility, something may be able to be worked out. No one wants to turn away patients who genuinely want to turn their lives around and overcome addiction. Some treatment facilities offer sliding-pay or ability to pay treatment options or offer other types of payment assistance. It never hurts to ask. There may also be federal, state, or local programs that may provide financial assistance to cover treatment. Ask about that as well, or get referrals and phone numbers where you can find out that information.
Bottom line: Treatment can only be effective when and if the patient fully commits to overcoming addiction, learns how to identify and recognize triggers, practices coping skills and strategies until he or she feels comfortable enough to use them when necessary, develops a recovery plan, and establishes a strong support network.
Treatment may take longer for some than for others. There may be slips or relapses. That doesn’t mean that the person has to start from square one. It may just mean that they pick up from where they left off, honing their skills, building their self-confidence, learning better ways to communicate, taking care of themselves, and charting a path for their future in recovery.
Remember that addiction does not define the individual. The individual will always be an addict, but can learn how to manage the disease. Who they are is not the disease. Who they are is who they choose to be – and work to achieve.
Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.
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