Falling Off the Wagon

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

During the time of prohibition, water wagons would drive around the dirty streets and sprinkle H2O around to keep the dust at bay. The teetotaling trend of the day found people making public vows to quit the drink for good. One of the practices of making a public vow found men jumping on the water wagon as it traveled around town and swearing to only drink water “from now on,”—no more booze. This was so popular, the phrase was coined: if a person quit drinking they were “on the water cart/wagon.” This of course was shortened to being on the wagon. And when one of these men broke their vow, or went back to drinking alcohol, they of course, fell off the water wagon.

These days falling off the wagon means returning to any bad habit. And unfortunately in drug and alcohol rehab, it still happens. Forty to 60 percent of people relapse. One reason for this is the chronic illness aspect of addiction. It must be managed. This is a day-to-day journey that can be affected by nearly infinite amounts of inputs. Treatment allows people to counteract an addiction’s powerful affect and can help people arrive at a place where management is possible and the impulses lose their influence.

But it happens. The fall from the wagon, the slip-up, returning to the sauce, these phrases exist for a reason. If you or a loved one have had a relapse, what should you do?

Each Unique Journey

First remember that the road to recovery is rarely a straight line. With treatment and professionals involved you have a better chance at getting on track, but without that kind of help, addicts will start and stop and start again in the ability to full teetotaling freedom.

The best way to keep relapses from happening is to stick with your aftercare. Very often depression and anxiety and many other psychological conditions are present in the life of an addict. This means that underlying issues contribute to the life-threatening substance abuse issue. Individual, group, family, 12-step therapies, all of these are pivotal for anyone dealing with multiple issues as they continue in their recovery.

Under a medical detox and with treatment you will be on the road to full recovery with subdued cravings. Willingness is vastly important for a life of sobriety, a positive attitude and the readiness to fight the battle every day. But willpower alone will not fix an addiction. Because of the many physical, chemical, psychological and environmental factors contributing to an addiction, relapses can still happen.

Relapse as a Reminder

Addicts have a chronic sickness; it is not going to go away. One of the major reasons for relapses is the when a person who has an addiction believes the sickness is not so bad or possibly even cured. Maybe they think that their addiction is only to heroine, so alcohol is okay. Or maybe they believe that now that they have broken the physical addiction to their drug of choice they can dabble with it on a recreational level. This type of behavior is typical of a relapse. The reality is they have a serious illness—a physical addiction to a deadly substance and only complete abstinence and daily commitment to sobriety will save their lives. Sometimes a relapse is a reminder of this fact. Or it is a wake up call to the reality that the addict was not willing to admit before.

Relapses can be devastating; however, even after a relapse, the addict is not at ground zero. It is a setback, but it can be something used to push forward. Their sobriety up to this point, the time in treatment, the work and effort, these things are not gone. They can be reinforced by a recommitment to take life back and find true and lasting recovery.

But What If It Happens?

The first vastly important step is to realize and admit that a relapse has occurred. This is not a time to point fingers or assign blame; it is a time to recognize the situation for what it is. You might be frustrated, your family and friends might be disappointed, but those emotions are counterproductive to the action that has to happen now and cannot be allowed to affect reality in this moment.

What do you do if you believe you or a loved one has had a relapse? Respond immediately. Remember, willpower is not enough. Addiction requires treatment. It may be disappointing and frustrating and feel like starting over again. But getting treatment today is your next step to your lasting sobriety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a relapse or addiction of any kind, please call us 1-844-489-0836. Or simply give us your phone number in the form above and we will call you. We are ready to give you any suggestions possible and set you or your loved one on a path toward recovery.

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