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By Vinny Aguanno

Does relapse mean starting from zero, in recovery?

People are in recovery for a wide variety of conditions — addiction, anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, just to name a few. Treatment varies based on diagnosis, yet there is commonality throughout. For the most part there is intense education about the disease or diagnosis of the individual. Most often some form of group therapy is incorporated, along with individual therapy sessions. For the most part, self-discovery and examination of one's past aid in finding the root cause of the condition. Whether the problem is drugs, alcohol, depression, anxiety, gambling or sex addiction, there is something either internally or externally causing the behaviors. Often, there is a dual diagnosis of addiction along with a mental health disorder.

Treatment can start due to one of many factors. People may be referred to treatment by their family doctors, family members may encourage them to seek help, and sometimes they may be court-ordered to attend. No matter how they make it into treatment, once there they must consciously accept treatment for there to be any success. Some schools of thought say that one must hit rock bottom before they can begin to recover. Rock bottom is different for every person; for one it may be waking up covered in vomit not knowing where they are, and for another it may be a job loss. The point is there is no magic cure-all, and recovery is going to be a long hard journey. As with any journey, there will be detours and pitfalls along the way.

While no one can predict who will relapse or when, there are warning signs and triggers to watch out for and avoid. Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for telling people to avoid the people, places and things that go hand in hand with drinking. Well, that goes for drugs, gambling, and sex addiction too. It may also be said for anxiety and depression in certain instances as well. Knowing that relapse is possible at every turn, avoiding it is the best course of action. How to do that is the key; knowing the warning signs and having a plan for prevention is a good idea.

After several weeks of hard work and treatment, a relapse occurs. Is this the end of recovery? Is everything that was gained now lost? That is one of the first thoughts that will go through the mind of a relapsing patient. Although this is a very crucial place in the recovery process, it does not negate the work that was previously done. Think of it more as a learning opportunity than an all-out failure. It would be very easy to fall back into the behavior that landed you in treatment to begin with. Tell yourself there is no reason to go back. Or you can use it to say, "I messed up! What did I do wrong, and how do I keep it from happening again?" Get right back into treatment — the time you were sober or without incident is still there. You just had a break in your treatment.

Accepting your mistake, owning it and moving forward is a healthy way to grow. Isn't that the ultimate goal of treatment? Grow into wellness, and develop a healthy way of living.

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