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Substances, Emotions, and Relapse

Despite the numerous negative consequences people continue to engage in addictive behaviors. They drink and take pills even when they have problems with their families, friends, employers, probably even with their pets. So why would such damaging behavior continue?

The short answer is that the substances temporally alleviate pain. The problem with this “relief” is that it is short lived and leaves a person with the desire to get back to that fix as quickly as it wears off. The use often covers up deeper emotions that many would rather just avoid, rather than confront.

When working with residents at the AToN Center, as they let go of their substances of abuse and the physical effects start to wear off, they have a difficult issue to face. They start to feel again. This is nearly always initially overwhelming as there is often a back log of feelings to be felt. The good news though is that once the chemical barriers have been removed a person then can access these emotions and can learn healthier ways to process and express them. This storm can be at times difficult to weather but with openness and honesty, it will pass and you will know what your emotional needs and how to get them met.

The Relapse. Frequently those with addictions struggle through a relapse. This term refers to a person having made attempts, formally or informally, to finally quit using substances, but despite their best efforts they find themselves falling back into their old patterns of addictive behaviors. Here at the AToN Center we are very serious about working to prevent the relapse and at the same time accepting that if a relapse happens this is the time to redouble efforts and quickly return back to where the sobriety left off. However, when some people relapse they have thoughts that interfere with them getting back to treatment or support. They start thinking “I’ll never stay sober” or “My friends just won’t understand” or “I’m just so stupid that I didn’t get this.”

A person can learn how, at the same exact time, take ownership for a mistake and also believe in their potential for progress. This blends humility and hope. With this spirit a person can acknowledge their mistakes but not fall so deep into shame that they forget their prior progress and potential for recovery. Try saying instead “I’m upset about this relapse but I’m going to get some help and assistance right now.”

Dr. Chad K. Cox PsyD
Licensed Psychologist
AToN Center  888-535-1516