By Cindy Coloma

Larry hangs up the phone and lets out a long, deep sigh. His drug screening just came back positive, which means he’ll miss out on his dream job. In an instant, he’s overcome with hopelessness, fear and shame and feels exhausted down to his bones. It seems like nothing will ever change.

No matter how hard Larry tries, he always circles back to the despair that has haunted him since he was young. He’s heard of others breaking free from addiction and depression — he just isn’t sure if he’ll ever be able to.

Larry has tried counseling, medication, support groups and even a 30-day treatment program. Surely if treatment was going to work, it would have fixed him by now, right? What’s the point in trying again?

Man in the wilderness

Addiction Is a Disease, Not a Failure

If you or someone you love struggles with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders, you might relate to Larry. In our world of modern medicine and fast fixes, recovery seems like it should be straightforward and manageable.

But the truth is, addiction is a chronic disease that requires long-term care.1 Understanding the complexities of recovery is key to success. Viewing addiction as an acute illness, a bad habit to overcome or a character flaw is dangerous and ineffective.

Common Reasons Relapse Happens

If you followed the recovery plan laid out for you by treatment professionals and ended up relapsing, you may be tempted to think there’s something wrong with you — or even that you’re incurable. But there are many reasons a relapse may occur. Let’s look at a few.

1. Unrealistic Expectations

Many believe the recovery process should be clear-cut, with a strong, identifiable ending point. It’s easy to look at the success of others and set unrealistic expectations for your own recovery. But consider this: You traveled a unique, rocky road to get where you are. It’s important to understand that individual treatment outcomes depend on the unique nature and extent of your problems, the type of treatment received and the quality of interaction between you and your treatment providers.2

The road to a healthy future will at times feel complicated and daunting. Recovery will not be easy, but it is possible. Recognizing the fact that change won’t happen overnight — and accepting there’s no one-size-fits-all fix — is an important part of moving forward successfully.

2. Rushing Through the Process

It’s understandable to desire a quick resolution to the addiction recovery process. However, research shows that the best outcomes require adequate treatment length.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, residential or outpatient treatment that lasts less than 90 days is generally not as effective in maintaining positive outcomes. In addition, opioid addiction recovery can greatly benefit from options like methadone maintenance that lasts for 12 months and more.3

The point is, if you view the recovery process as a lifetime pursuit of health instead of a quick fix, you may have a better outcome. It’s important to allow the process to take as long as it takes for your unique situation.

3. Choosing an Inadequate Rehab Center or Treatment Plan

A five-year study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that only one in 10 addicted individuals receive treatment. And of those who do, very few receive evidence-based care.4

Think about it. If professionals aren’t using practices that have been scientifically proven to effectively treat addiction and its causes, is it any wonder so many patients are unsuccessful? Examples of evidence-based therapies include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.5

4. Compartmentalizing Mental Health and Addiction

Mental health issues and substance use disorders often go hand in hand. Yet many providers treat one or the other rather than integrating care. If the underlying issues that drive addiction aren’t addressed, it’s a recipe for relapse.
Instead of compartmentalizing treatment for each condition separately, providers in an integrated treatment program collaborate to create a treatment plan that’s uniquely designed to get to the root of co-occurring addiction and mental health issues to work toward complete, long-term recovery.

Recovery Is Still Possible

If you’re ready to seek treatment but have been unsuccessful in the past, it may be time to contact a facility that specializes in integrated treatment. Black Bear Lodge offers a comprehensive program that addresses the needs of the whole person — mind, body and spirit. Our professionals will work with you to create an evidence-based treatment plan that sets you on the path to long-term recovery.

Don’t put off healing any longer. There is hope. Call our toll-free helpline to talk to someone today.


1 Sack, David MD. “Why Didn’t Drug Rehab Work? 5 Wrongs That Don’t Make a Right.” PsychCentral, Accessed January 14, 2018.

2Principles of Effective Treatment.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Accessed January 14, 2018.

3How Long Does Drug Addiction Treatment Usually Last?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Accessed January 14, 2018.

4 “Addiction Medicine: Closing the Gap Between Science and Practice.” The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Accessed January 14, 2018.

5 McGovern, Mark P., PhD, and Kathleen M. Carroll, Phd. “Evidence-based practices for substance use disorders.” The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, December 2003.

Articles posted here are primarily educational and may not directly reflect the offerings at Black Bear Lodge. For more specific information on programs at Black Bear Lodge, contact us today.