Getting sober is a process that often starts in treatment, but it continues on long after you leave. You need to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally from the ravages of addiction. You have to learn, each day, how to navigate the ups and downs of life without the use of substances to cope.
Relapse doesn’t have to be a part of the process, but sometimes it is. Relapse often happens in the first weeks and months of recovery, although it can still happen years after getting sober. This is why continued recovery support and vigilance is so crucial—and why it’s so important to understand how your mental health can impact your ongoing sobriety.
What Causes Relapse?
There are a lot of individual factors that contribute to relapse. Often, it’s a lack of support or spending time with people who use. However, in many cases, relapse is a direct result of unaddressed mental health issues.
Mental illness and addiction often go hand in hand. Studies show that nearly 50 percent of those struggling with addiction also have a mental illness. Examples may include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or trauma.
Which Comes First?
It depends. For some, the symptoms of mental illness were present before the substance abuse. For others, the mental illness came after the substance use. Either way, substance use is often an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of mental illness. The problem is that, over time, substances only make symptoms worse and more frequent.
Why is Recovering From Both Disorders so Difficult?
The person who is diagnosed with both addiction and mental illness is said to have a co-occurring disorder. This means that they are battling two illnesses and need help for both of them.
In the past, this rarely happened. Addiction treatment centers were only interested in solving the substance abuse problem, and they frequently turned away patients who needed mental health services.
Likewise, mental health facilities only addressed the mental illness at hand and would not treat addiction issues. The problem, however, was that people often returned to addiction when their mental illness symptoms returned.
Today, there is a greater understanding of the link between mental health and addiction. Many substance abuse treatment centers offer services for mental illness, and vice versa. This type of treatment increases the odds of a successful recovery and long-term sobriety.
Recovery Is Ongoing
It’s important that ongoing mental health care be a part of recovery from addiction. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, you may experience a return of symptoms at any time. Understanding how to manage these symptoms is essential. The urge to return to substance use in order to cope with feelings of depression, panic attacks, or manic symptoms can be powerful.
How Can You Maintain Your Sobriety in the Midst of a Mental Health Crisis?
The first step is understanding your mental illness. Managing your symptoms often takes a team approach. It’s important that you have a support system in place and that you learn how to advocate for yourself. It’s also important that any doctors or counselors you have are aware of your addiction and that you are in recovery.
Avoiding stressors, getting lots of support for your sobriety, and practicing self-care is another important step.
Finally, have a plan so that if and when your symptoms emerge you know what to do, who to talk to, and how to get the help and support you need—not just for your mental health, but also for your sobriety.
If you are in early recovery and looking for a clean and sober living environment in the Chicago area, contact us to learn more today. A sober living environment can dramatically increase your chances of staying sober after treatment and can offer you much-needed support in the early weeks and months of your sobriety.