Tyler relapses after 20 years
"It's the same old story,
the same old song and dance."
-Steven Tyler: Aerosmith
The above bit of lyrics, from a song by Aerosmith is a good analogy for an addict that chooses to try some more "controlled using" (better known as relapse).
Unfortunately, Steven recently checked himself into a rehab center after twenty years of recovery from drugs and alcohol. Why? How does something like this happen?
Perhaps more importantly, the question can be: When this happens close to home, what can I do to help--as a concerned friend or loved one?
This Summer '08 Issue of our Recovery Newsletter speaks specifically about this issue of relapse and what families can do when it happens.
Relapse. It happens.
. . . but it doesn't have to be the end of the road.
What do you do if your loved one relapses?
Every strike brings me closer
to the next home run.
Even after reading this, you may still have trouble trying to understand why a relapse may happen. I'm a recovering addict, it happened to me, and it's hard for me to completely understand as well. The truth is that a recovering addict may relapse several times. The best thing to do is to try to remain hopeful, and encourage the person to keep on fighting the battle, though you may feel anger, frustration, and disappointment.
Getting some support from others in the family, and from groups such as Al-Anon, will be helpful. And try to remember that the recovering person will feel these feelings as intensely as you do. Relapse is similar to a cancer that comes out of remission. It doesn't do any good to get mad at the cancer or the person. The same is true for the disease of addiction. Instead, try to focus on the solution, which is to get your loved one sober and drug-free. Eventually, with the help of family and the right support, those in recovery will stop relapsing, regardless if they've had one relapse or a dozen.
Some who are reading this may have already observed several relapses. You may be asking, when will it ever stop? You can take comfort in knowing that a majority of people in recovery will have a few relapses. For a small minority, it could be much worse, and additional long-term treatment may be necessary.
A very good friend of mine works in the recovery field. Nick (not his real name) has abstained from drugs and alcohol for almost twenty years. His life is good, his marriage is solid, and he has a teenage son who is doing great. But years ago, I don't know of anyone who appeared to be more hopeless. I can only imagine what it must have been like for his family, going through relapse after relapse after relapse. Nick went through eight different treatment centers before he finally got it.
The day of his last relapse was very stressful for him. He was living in a halfway house at the time. Halfway houses usually have many rules and everyone is assigned different chores, such as cooking and cleaning. After lunch Nick skipped his cleanup assignment, walked two blocks, and bought a half-pint of vodka. Before the bottle was gone, he was on the phone buying crack. This crack binge lasted a few days and he soon had another warrant out for his arrest. He was offered the choice of going through another treatment program or returning to prison.
That was over twenty years ago. Since then, he has helped hundreds of other men, women, and their families battle this same addiction. Nick is now highly respected in his field, loves his work, and will continue to be an inspiration for countless others in the future. He is just one more example to me of how anyone can overcome addiction.
Stress and Triggers
. . . a bad combination
The combination of stress and
"triggers" can be a real problem. We have all heard about Dr. Pavlov
and his experiment with dogs. He fed his dogs and at the same time rang
a bell. He did this over and over, and eventually the dogs would
salivate every time he rang the bell-whether there was food around or
not. Looking back on my own drug use, I remember experiencing similar
feelings of anticipation. Knowing my drug dealer was coming over,
seeing a mirror with a razor blade on it, smelling the drug-all these
things excited my brain. With no real conscious effort, I would start
to mentally drool, knowing what was coming next.
learned, just like Dr. Pavlov, that once this subconscious change has
taken place, a person can't just turn it off. There is no on/off
switch. Over time it will fade, but I don't believe it ever goes away
This is true for many things in life. A particular song,
smell, or place can trigger memories that a person hasn't thought of
for years. The brain is very powerful, and potentially life-threatening
triggers should not be taken lightly.
Socializing with people who drink
and use drugs can be a trigger. Going to a bar, with all its familiar
sights, sounds, and smells, can be a trigger. Mirrors, razor blades,
rolling papers, certain music-any or all of these things-can trigger a
relapse. People often ask about the dangers of ingesting seemingly
harmless food and drink, such as cough syrup, food cooked with wine or
liqueurs or drinking a small amount of wine during communion. Should a
recovering person stay away from such things? Yes. Even these items can
be invitations for relapse.
When I quit using, I had to go
through my apartment and get rid of all kinds of things that could be
triggers to me. I looked for anything that had to do with my drug use:
rolling papers, pipes, small vials for coke, pictures of drugs, baggies
with any residue in them, scales-you name it.
"We couldn't visit him during the first week. The second
week we went to see him, and he was really doing
good. He had a smile and that was so great to see. The
third week he came home for the weekend. He called one
evening during that weekend while I was at work and said,
'Mom there is a half bottle of Vodka here, and I wondered
if I could pour it down the sink.' I said of course!"
I also knew that I
couldn't hang around with any of my old friends who were mostly drug
dealers or heavy drug users. That wasn't easy. Though they were not
good for me, I still felt a camaraderie with some of them. A few didn't
believe the change in me would last. Several times they tried to get
together with me to party. I had to say "no" and explain why. This time
of letting go was difficult and awkward, but I found it wasn't
impossible to leave these relationships behind. After a while, I began
to see that many of these friendships were pretty lame anyway.
the case of a recovering teen, saying no to these things needs to come
from deep within-not from a command from Mom or Dad. When parents try
pulling their children away from other troubled peers, it is never as
effective as when teenagers make the decision themselves.
the parental control can often have the reverse effect-with the teen
adamantly resolving, You can't tell me who my friends can be! I had to
learn new ways to handle both stress and triggers. For me, triggers
(people, places, and things) were easier to cope with than stress.
Triggers were avoidable, whereas stress wasn't. Today, I continue to
work on and improve my response to daily stress. Time and experience
are wonderful teachers, which over the years have helped to mellow my
response to everyday stress.
a person has had several years in recovery, all these issues lessen in
intensity. I'm thankful that today my relationships with people are
much healthier. I don't have any friends who abuse alcohol or use
drugs. I no longer have anything in common with users. They are as
uncomfortable around me as I am around them.
Looking back to when
alcohol and drugs controlled me, I can see that my old way of living
bred a level of stress that stemmed mainly from heavy using. Although I
have been sober now for over twenty-five years, stressful times are
still part of my life, but now I am able to handle them in healthy
ways. What has changed is my attitude.
to learn more about
the award-wining book and companion DVD"Why Don't They JUST QUIT?"
Changing Lives has had the pleasure of hearing from many of you.
With their permission, we are honored to share some of the reviews, feedback and
experiences, with the hope that you too, will know that you are not
alone, and to "never give up hope."
"Wow! Thank you so much.... I will definitely spread the word to my friends who could use this book\DVD as well. Your customer service is outstanding..."
-JS, Providence, RI
"God bless you. I attend al-anon, but when I saw the ad on internet for your book, I felt it was exactly what I needed to read.
Al-Anon and AA are a God-send, but I have found other "books" to be very
general and a little outdated with today's times. Joe's book has
answered so many questions for me that I can relate to and put into
practice. It is a must-read for anyone struggling with an addiction or
an addict in their life."
-DB, Lakewood, Colorado
"I am finding your book full of amazing information. My son has been on drugs for 6 years and finally is in a rehab for six months. He is doing the 12 steps very seriously and doing very well in the program. My husband and I invited him to come home and start his life once again. We have been going to Alanon and thought we would start going to family counseling with him to make sure we stay on track at all times. I want to make sure that I don't ever enable him again and feel a little scared. Thank you."
-SM, Indio, California
"Everyone's heard an addict's story
- in one way or another. But, has anyone ever really understood it?
From the opening page of this book, the reader is treated to real-life
stories, practical tools and thought-provoking quotes that illustrate
the journey to... through... and from addiction.
of the addict and their social structures are finally explained; from
the environments they migrate to, the people they surround themselves
with and finally, to the families that suffer as they watch their loved
one's battle with addiction.
An addict does not have to be one who is addicted to alcohol, a narcotic or a prescription. It could be food, or acceptance, or the overwhelming need to 'save' someone. No one is left behind in their quest for information in 'Why Don't They Just Quit'.
book will help not only the addict who doesn't yet 'recognize'
themselves. But, it could also help the family and loved ones who just
don't get... why they don't just quit!
book is a page turning, 'Most-Frequently-Asked-Questions' life-manual
for anyone who wants to understand addiction and how it happens.
With it, an addict is given the map on how they got that way; and the
tools they'll need to find their way back. Family, friends and the
addict's significant others are encouraged to face the role they play
in the addict's life.
"Don't clean me up... I need to remember - and see - what I have done."
caught in the web of addiction is allowed, with this book, to interpret
their actions and how they may be enabling the addict. Most of all, the
addict learns to understand that quitting their addiction does not mean
that they are no longer an addict . . . but that they are a recovering
To stop using... does not 'fix' you. You must fix you!"
- Robin R. Rogers, Cheney, WA /Author of "ROCK BOTTOM"
"One of the most frustrating and demoralizing experiences men and women have is watching the horrifically destructive impact of addiction upon the health, life, and relationships of a loved one. Often the disastrous consequences of addiction are so severe that we are led to shake our heads and wonder why the addict cannot simply stop the addiction that has so enslaved and ruined them.
In "Why Don't They Just Quit?: What Families And Friends Need To Know About Addiction And Recovery", drawing upon thirteen years as an addiction counselor working in the Colorado criminal justice system, Joe Herzanek (himself a recovering addict who founded and presides over the Changing Lives Foundation) provides answers to more than thirty common (and not so common) questions that non-addicts have with respect to a loved one's addiction.
Herzanek explains with illustrative clarity why addicts don't really have to hit 'rock bottom' before they are willing to be helped; when helping an addict is counter-productive; why quitting an addiction is not the same thing as recovering from that addiction; how to deal with an addict who has relapsed; how to obtain a 50% (or more) reduction in the medical costs of addiction treatments; why a parent would leave their own child due to a parent's addiction; why an effective intervention need not be an ambush-style confrontation with the addict.
Articulate, 'real-world' practical, thoroughly 'user friendly', and strongly recommended reading, "Why Don't They Just Quit?" is also available on DVD. Counseling centers and community libraries are particularly encouraged to buy a "Why Don't They Just Quit?" book/DVD set."
- Midwest Book Review, Oregon, WI
Thank you for partnering with us in the battle to free those we care about from the bonds of addiction. I believe that your family and relationships can be fully restored and that you can play an important role in changing someone's life immediately.
Remember to never give up hope!
Changing Lives Foundation
Changing Lives Foundation is committed to bringing you practical
information that can be used right now, to help someone you care about
break the bonds of addiction.
Next Generation Indie Book Awards
|JUST RELEASED . . .
Changing Lives is proud to announce that "Why Don't They JUST QUIT?" has been awarded top prize in the Self Help Category (2008 Indie Book Awards).
Entries are chosen from independent authors and publishers worldwide.
Click here for more information about this life-changing book
What people are saying about "Why Don't They JUST QUIT?"
Now you can explore ...
our past newsletters
and press releases
(includes selected excerpts from
"Why Don't They
|to access our Newsletter
In it you
"THE DEVIL'S DRUG"
(do Meth addicts really recover?)
from Spring 2008
THE ACCIDENTAL ADDICT
from March 2008
from Feb. 2008
from Jan. 2008
WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH STRESS?
from Dec. 2007
from Nov. 2007
- Q&A "ASK JOE" -
Patience, persistence and perspiration
make an unbeatable combination for success.
Click on the links
below for more
The Ten Most
Also, relapse signs, symptoms and attitudes
How You Can Make a Difference
How You Can
Make a Difference
in getting a loved one started in recovery
The Anti Drug
The Anti Drug.
Spouses and Relapse
Linked to Rellapse
NIDA for Teens
NIDA for Teens
(the science behind
I just stumbled on this site, which is packed with interesting and useful info about drugs and alcohol that is written especially for teens. Check it out!
More About Changing Lives Foundation
Click on the name
to read their story of recovery!
Hello my name is
Fort Payne, AL
Tiffanie and I am
a person in recovery
from drugs and alcohol.
I am an Entertainer (singer/songwriter/
In the mid
90's I became addicted to Hydrocodone.
As time went by my addiction
to the point
that I was doing
to feed my habit.
Lynn Marie Smith
At the age of 19,
San Clemente, CA
I moved from
to New York City
a career in acting.
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To go against the dominant thinking
of your friends,
of most of the people you see every day,
is perhaps the most difficult
act of heroism you can perform.
another door opens;
but we often look so long and so regretfully
upon the closed door,
do not see