Is a relapse a restart or a bump in the path to sobriety?

What a wonderful question and the answer certainly will depend on who is answering the question.

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(Addictive Substances)

Here is the tragic truth, at least regarding getting sober in America. From the moment someone first asks for help to try to get sober, either by going to a treatment facility or by simply attending their first AA meeting, it takes an average of seven years before abstinence is attained to the person’s satisfaction. Another sobering statistic is that once someone enters treatment, it takes an average of roughly 4 (3.7) in-patient treatments before someone considers themselves in sobriety. Even more, after five years of abstinence, the person still runs a fifteen percent chance for the rest of their lives to relapse once again, requiring another treatment or a renewed intense commitment to AA or other recovery programs.

Recovery after one treatment certainly does happen, several of my physician friends are still sober after our first treatment together, however, they are the exception, not the rule. The advantage they had was that they are physicians and were monitored (submitted random drug and alcohol screens) for the first five years of their treatment. Being physicians in a monitoring program, they have around an 80% likelihood of getting five years clean. Those not in a monitoring program have around a 3% chance of being clean five years after their first treatment. The true tragedy is that monitoring isn’t even mentioned to the patient or their families as a treatment option for non-licensed professionals. Thus, the general public doesn’t stand a chance for long-term recovery after their first treatment from an American Treatment Center.

Relapse is the rule, not the exception. The surgeon general of the United States recently stated that relapse should be treated no differently than an exacerbation of illness similar to any other exacerbation of a chronic disease such as asthma, diabetes, or arthritis. Of course, no one goes to jail for DUI, or families aren’t devastated by an exacerbation of asthma. Not so with a relapse from drugs or alcohol.

Relapse simply means the need for a higher level of care in order for the person to get better. We’re dealing with a chronic mental illness that adversely changes the brain. It takes time for the brain to heal, roughly 18 months to two years as indicated by functional MRI (fMRI) scans of alcoholic’s brains.

Monitoring services simply provide the member and their loved one’s information about their chronic illness. Are they first willing to submit to random drug and alcohol testing with peer-to-peer accountability in the first place? If not, that suggests the need for a higher level of care than home care. Are they checking into the app daily? If not that is information suggesting an increased level of care. Are they submitting drug screens and showing an accountability partner the results? Again, suggesting a need for a level of care. The family members, loved ones and physicians are often in the dark in determining the level of treatment for one suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. Monitoring services provide the appropriate information in real-time to help in the appropriate treatment for this devastating chronic mental illness.       

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