Why do people relapse?
First, it is important to realize that relapse is not uncommon. Many people who are striving to overcome addictive behaviors have setbacks and relapses as they move toward healthier attachments and relationships. Do not allow relapse to cause you to give up. You should also read up on alcohol interesting facts to better understand relapse.
Second, the causes of the relapse offer valuable insights into the healing process. So it is important to carefully examine why people relapse.
Harmony Place Mark Schwartz states that intimacy and relationships are the most critical factors contributing to relapse for addictive behavior. When we ask, “What are you afraid will happen if you let go of your addiction?” the most common response is loneliness or the fear of being alone. The addiction is providing solace and comfort. It has become a trusted companion, chosen over the companionship of people. Addictive behaviors isolate the individual, pushing others away to create a pseudo-relationship that substitutes for true connections with others. With the addiction as a companion, the person forgets or never learns how to create real relationships with friends or lovers. The ultimate component for successful recovery is learning how to connect.
Harmony Place Monterey says he first step in connecting is helping the client uncover their “real-self” instead of the “false-self” they have been showing to the world. The false self is an adaptation, a mask created like an actor on a stage, because the client’s childhood experiences never taught him how to authentically be effective in the world. The client feels like an impostor, imitating others to try to avoid rejection. For the person’s real self to unfold, they need to re-own parts of the self they had discarded, such as emotion, and integrate the biographical experiences from early development they may have abandoned because they were too overwhelming.
The second step in connecting is to establish a secure attachment with self and others. When we are afraid or overwhelmed, the natural response is to turn to others for help. If those others are rejecting or punitive, we learn to protect ourselves from this danger. We shut down, choose not to trust, and erect the walls of the “false self.” The client must then learn how to trust again, how to choose people deserving of trust. They practice being open, vulnerable and reciprocal, allowing emotional attachment without retreating. Another part Harmony Place Dr. Schwartz says the client must do is to also accept that others will not always be available and meet their needs constantly and consistently. This is not a trust breakdown, but the reality of human nature. When this happens, the client learns to not retreat to old habits and addictions but to work through the perceived rejection and continue to build the attachment.
The third step in connecting is strengthening the client’s feelings of self-acceptance, self-efficacy, and treating oneself with kindness and respect. Persons struggling with addiction often had parents whose love was conditional; they expected perfectionism and modeled obsessive recrimination for those who made mistakes. The child grows into an adult filled with self-hatred and self-punishment. It is hard to accept care from others when the person hates themselves. Therefore challenging and reversing the client’s constant barrage of negative self-statements is critical to fostering healthy connections to others.
All of these steps move the client toward intimacy. Establishing true intimacy is the most critical component to move clients out of addictive behavior and into recovery. Dr. Mark Schwartz Harmony Place’s therapists are able to facilitate this journey once the client is practicing these steps on a daily basis. The road to recovery often leads through a relapse, but it emerges on the other side with greater insight and skills for healthy relationships.