Men and Relapse

Men and Relapse

November 14th, 2013 Helpful Articles, Relapse Prevention

Relapse—an unwelcome guest for men in recovery. Relapsing from addiction recovery has developed a distinct stigma; one that suggests individuals have “failed” at recovery if they fall back into old habits.

Man holds cardboard sign reading, "help" in front of his face.

What’s important to remember is that relapse is an aspect of recovery that can happen to both men and women, similar to someone in remission from cancer falling victim to the disease again.

Jason Crowder’s Story

After battling drug addiction since his teens, Jason, now 31, made multiple attempts to overcome his drug addiction before succeeding.

When you stop using, you stay clean for a while and then you say, ‘well I can go out and do it this way’ and then you are right back at square one.”

– Jason

It was only when he had to hit bottom that Jason realized the only way he could survive was to say no to it all. After entering drug rehab again and staying dedicated to his program, Jason is now in long-term recovery.

There are a variety of reasons why men, like Jason Crowder, struggle with relapse. Four of the most common reasons may include:

  • They have an undiagnosed psychiatric disorder: It is estimated that more than half of men struggling with drug or alcohol addiction are also struggling with a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder—a dual diagnosis. These underlying co-occurring disorders often lead the individual to self-medicate the only way they know how, using drugs and alcohol. The chance of relapse remains high until both the addiction and underlying co-occurring disorder are treated.
  • Without a proper support network they experience extreme stress, challenging events, or, conversely great success: Men in recovery from addiction may be susceptible to life-changing events. Things such as getting fired from a job or getting divorced can cause tremendous stress, shame, and depression for an individual whom can in turn, trigger a desire to use drugs or alcohol again. On the other side, joyous occasions such as getting married or getting a promotion can trigger a desire in an individual to celebrate, which oftentimes involves alcohol or drugs. A study out of the University of Pennsylvania found that men are in fact more likely than women to relapse as a reaction to these positive emotional states. Additionally, men can be reluctant when it comes to participating in group therapy and 12-step meetings, instead feeling a masculine need to do things on their own. As a result, they may not have a solid support system or anywhere to turn when support is needed; and instead relapse as an effort to feel better.
  • They refuse to give up the friends, connections, and world of their addiction: Men who get sober, but still hang out with their old drinking/using friends will eventually relapse; as the triggers to use again are still increasingly present.
  • They get into a sexual or romantic relationship before they are prepared to handle that relationship, or its demise: Unfortunately, relationships in early recovery pose one of the most significant threats to an individual’s ongoing sobriety. For instance, if the relationship goes awry, the loss can send an individual into an emotional spiral that can lead to relapse. Until an individual’s new coping mechanisms are in place and are ingrained as stress responses, even a minor set back in a relationship can send a recovering addict reeling.

While relapse may happen for some and not for others, it is important to remember that relapse does not mean failure. Recovering from alcohol and drug addiction is a lifelong process of hard work and dedication to your program and recovery path. Entering a drug rehab program, developing a strong support system, and being aware of one’s one personal triggers can go great lengths towards maintaining long-term addiction recovery and avoiding relapse.

If you or someone you love is in danger of relapsing or wants to make the crucial first step in seeking addiction recovery, give us a call today. Don’t let another day pass you by; help is out there.


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