What Demi Lovato’s Relapse Can Teach Us About Life in Recovery
The Discovery House Blog

What Demi Lovato’s Relapse Can Teach Us About Life in Recovery

June 21, 2018 Life in Recovery

Relapse can feel like such a dirty word. For many people in recovery it becomes their truth, and this week Demi Lovato admitted it was hers. 

She had been hinting to her fans through social media that her truth was going to emerge and that “people weren’t going to like it.” Then, a surprise single dropped call Sober, where Lovato confesses to relapsing just six months after she celebrated six years of sobriety.

The song is a dark and emotional story about the painful aftermath of relapsing, and it’s one of which many people in recovery can relate. While many people in recovery may struggle with seeing a role model fall, we see it as a teachable moment. A moment to recognize the reality of life in recovery and that is that it’s not linear.

Anyone in recovery can relapse – at any time. 

Though it is most common for it to happen in the first few months of recovery, it is essential to recognize that relapse can occur at any time no matter how much time you have.

Not all relapses are the same

Like much of life (and recovery) relapse can seem like a grey area. Such as, what is the difference between a slip or lapse and a relapse? 

According to recovery.org,

“There is a major difference between having one slip and having a relapse. A lapse represents a temporary slip or return to a previous behavior that one is trying to control or quit (usually a one-time occurrence), whereas a relapse represents a full-blown return to a pattern of behavior that one has been trying to moderate or quit altogether.”

If you went to a treatment center, you are probably familiar with the cycle of addiction or rather the Stages of Change. Arguably one of the most important things to remember about the Stages of Change is that you can be in any stage at any time, regardless of how long you’ve been sober. 

Relapse = Failure?

Countless articles are circling the web at this very moment detailing what relapse is and is not. What many of them will say is that relapse does not equate to failure. In this video, Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety details what relapse means and how it kind of needs a makeover.

By definition, relapse is a “going back” process. However, going back doesn’t completely erase all the work you’ve done thus far. Holly urges us to re-frame our perspective on relapse and to think of it as a failure that you can learn from and make the appropriate changes in your recovery. 

Whether you see it as starting over or merely a slip in your recovery timeline, everyone has differing views and beliefs around relapse. Find yours and do what you have to do to prevent it.

Relapse is Preventable

You may be surprised, but relapse in addiction is entirely preventable. Also surprising; there are many warning signs leading up to a potential relapse – they don’t just come out of nowhere. A fact that Demi herself knew too well. 

“People say that relapses happen before you use. Your mind starts setting up the relapse before you take that drink or that first hit. The times we’d broken up, I had already gone to that place of, ‘Yeah, this is what’s happening,’” Lovato told Cosmopolitan magazine in 2015 when asked about her relationship with Wilmer Valderrama. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I just wanted to sabotage everything around me so that I could sabotage myself.”

Warning signs of relapse

  • Avoiding support from family and friends
  • Isolating
  • Reconnecting with old “friends”
  • Quitting meetings
  • Not working your program
  • Not talking to your sponsor
  • Romanticizing drug use or alcohol use
  • Insisting that you can use or drink without consequences
  • Slipping out of daily routines
  • Defensive behavior
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Denial
  • Unrealistic expectations

Lovato’s announcement and single have been met with nothing but support from friends and fans alike.

TL;DR
The bottom line; relapse happens but it is preventable. The more you actively do to work your program (whatever program works for you) the more you minimize your probability for relapse. Look out for signs of relapse, recognize that it’s not an inevitability and if it happens to learn from it and keep pushing onward. 

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