Recovery, Lapse and Relapse - Episode 3 of Addicted Australia
In this episode the participants are halfway through the treatment program. We check in on how they are and follow the ups and downs experienced by people in recovery.
Trigger Warning: Some people in recovery may find watching some parts of Addicted Australia triggering, particularly in relation to alcohol and drug use, and trauma. You may want to seek support while watching if this is the case.
“It’s tiring to wake up every single day and that’s what you think about,” Heidi, 31, addicted to alcohol.
In this episode, addiction affects the mental health and wellbeing of some of the participants. It is normal for people to feel a range of emotions during their recovery journey, including grief, self-doubt, fear, anger and failure. Heidi feels apprehension and distress as she prepares to go to detox to manage withdrawal. This is a very common experience. It is important to acknowledge that going to detox is a difficult first step for most people. Focusing on the benefits of change, the possibility of recovery, and acknowledging each achievement can help people get through each day at a time.
There is no single path to recovery
Unfortunately, there is no magic solution to managing addiction and people can experience an array of challenges on their way to recovery. It’s also important to understand that the process of making a change is not the same for everyone and treatment goals can vary, depending on where people are at. For some people success might be that they are staying engaged with treatment to keep working towards recovery. For others it can be maintaining sobriety, or reducing their use of alcohol, other drugs or gambling. People need to be able to access support to have the opportunity to manage their addiction regardless of where they are at, or where they have been in their journey.
Taking that first step to getting help should be celebrated
“It takes an enormous amount of bravery to accept that you have a problem that you’ve been struggling with for years, and taking that first step to getting help should be celebrated.” Professor Dan Lubman, Executive Clinical Director – Turning Point
Research has shown that people wait almost 20 years before getting help for their addiction, and, that most people affected by addiction don’t access treatment and support. Stigma and shame stops people affected by addiction feeling able to ask for, and access the help they need. This needs to change. Services like Counselling Online are here to help people take those first steps in making a change, as well as being a support throughout their journey.
What happens after detox?
Recovery journeys following detox can be different for everyone depending on individual preferences and healthcare needs. In the documentary series, Matt is able to return home and remain in a very positive space following his detox. For others like Heidi, a short stay rehabilitation admission occurs to help her maintain positive changes. Heidi attends a residential unit for people requiring additional time to stabilise their physical and mental health after detoxification. Here, patients are supported to develop their own wellness plans for the future and are encouraged to attend sessions to help them with their recovery.
“My priority in rehab is myself, I have realised I have never put myself first, and this space has allowed me to do that,” Heidi, 31, addicted to alcohol.
Lapse and relapse
It is common for people recovering from addiction to go through periods of lapse and relapse. Finding ways to maintain changes can be really important. During the peer support group, Oscar explains that people will often experience lapse and relapse during the Christmas and New Year period, when there is a lot going on and people are feeling added pressure. It is important to remember that lapse and relapse are not signs of weakness or failure, and rather can be an opportunity to recognise individual triggers and vulnerabilities, and, to learn strategies to better manage these in future. It’s crucial to understand that people who experience lapse and relapse can overcome these obstacles and are able to continue with their recovery as planned.
“It is not a surprise if there is a relapse or a slip up, or if someone ends up in a rough spot again, because that is just the nature of it,” Oscar, Peer Support Worker.
The link between trauma and addiction
“It’s not heroin that I want treated, it’s my depression. It’s what’s behind the addiction,” Keegan, 30, addicted to heroin.
Trauma is a common underlying factor among people affected by addiction. Keegan’s substance use has been a way for him to cope with things that have happened in his past. Sometimes, for people with lived experience of trauma, there is a risk of them engaging in self-harm as a means of numbing their pain.
“One of the things that is most misunderstood about addiction is that it’s not just purely about the alcohol, drugs or gambling. What’s core to everyone we see is often a story of trauma or a story of mental health, and I think that’s something the broader community doesn’t understand,” Professor Dan Lubman, Executive Clinical Director - Turning Point.
We hope you found episode three of Addicted Australia to be empowering and insightful. If you would like to help us change the conversation about addiction you can join the #Rethink Addiction campaign.
Remember if you or anyone you know is affected by addiction and need support, help is available: