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Many people in active addiction struggle with something referred to as “terminal uniqueness.” What this means is that they feel as though they are the only ones who could possibly ever feel so emotionally devastated by their alcohol addiction. Of course, this is not true. This emotional distress is probably the most shared aspect of addiction. Yet, it typically requires some form of positive intervention for individuals to have this type of revelation. However, even in recovery, this terminal uniqueness can return, especially with relapse and experiences of relapse guilt.

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawals

Alcohol withdrawal is the symptoms that people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcohol dependence feel when they stop ingesting alcohol. These symptoms can be very uncomfortable, and, in some instances, can even be fatal.

Alcohol withdrawals have a very specific timeline. As stated in the clinical journal titled Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, “[Alcohol withdrawal] symptoms start around 6 hours after cessation or decrease in intake and last up to 4 – 48 hours (early withdrawal). Hallucinations of visual, tactile, or auditory qualities, and illusions while conscious are symptoms of moderate withdrawal… The appearance of acute symptomatic seizures may emerge 6 – 48 hours after the last drink.” Also, the article tells us that “Delirium Tremens” (DTs) can happen around 48 hours after one stops drinking and can linger for roughly 2 weeks.

Alcohol withdrawals also include:

  • Increases in anxiety and depression
  • Excess stress and nervousness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including nausea and vomiting
  • Heavy disorientation and confusion
  • Excessive and intense headaches
  • The potential for stroke, seizure, and heart attack

The Current Prevalence of Relapse in the U.S.

Many people don’t realize just how prevalent relapses currently are in the United States. According to Current Psychiatry Reports, “It has long been known that addictive disorders are chronic and relapsing in nature. Recent estimates from clinical treatment studies suggest that more than two-thirds of individuals relapse within weeks to months of initiating treatment.” Also, “For 1-year outcomes across alcohol, nicotine, weight, and illicit drug abuse, studies show that more than 85% of individuals relapse and return to drug use within 1 year of treatment.”

While relapses can happen for any number of reasons, there are a few universal reasons why people choose not to get help again after they relapse. Some of these reasons reside in the realm of relapse guilt.

Understanding Relapse Guilt

Stigma and shame have long been associated with AUD. Many people feel as though they will be judged for their addiction. Of course, the fact of the matter is that they have a “disease” that is out of their control and requires professional support and intervention to overcome. 

Many people also associate their alcohol addiction with the stigmas they see out in the public sphere. This includes stigma-related language (such as “drunk, lush, etc.), stigma-related tropes (such as the ”bumbling drunk”), and stigma-related discrimination (sometimes experienced in work and academia).

The good news is that these types of relapse guilt, stigma, and shame are dissipating – slowly but surely. This dissipation is also helpful when one wants to overcome their shame after drinking.

Overcoming Relapse Guilt

When it comes to overcoming relapse guilt, the most important thing one can do is to reach out to people who understand. This includes professionals in the recovery industry, such as therapists and addiction counselors. They can help individuals get set up with a relapse prevention plan and back into recovery.

Another group of people who can greatly help people overcome relapse guilt are members of a recovery community. These may be people in 12-Step recovery, SMART recovery, and/or recovery dharma (among others). Communities of recovery can greatly help reduce relapse guilt by sharing their own experiences of relapse (or avoiding relapse) with one another. 

This type of shared experience can be crucial – so crucial, in fact, that it is even directly addressed in the primary text of 12-Step recovery (commonly referred to as the Big Book). As the Big Book states, “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much ensure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail… You can help when no one else can.” This is also how people can get over relapse guilt.

Healing at the Cellular Level With The Phoenix Recovery Center

Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we understand that relapses are a part of many people’s stories. That is why we always focus on long-term recovery rather than short-term treatment.

There is no shame in a relapse. The shame is when a relapse stops someone from achieving the recovery they deserve. A relapse never has to be the end. It may just be the wake-up call that we need to get back on track, and that track is always ready and waiting at The Phoenix Recovery Center.

Many people who relapse with alcohol soon discover that their drinking picked right back up where they left off. This is because an addiction like alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a progressive disease that tends to get worse, never better, without some type of positive intervention. This progression also includes the intensity of alcohol withdrawals, which can also be a big reason why people avoid coming back into recovery after a relapse. Another reason for this apprehension is relapse guilt. If you feel like you or a loved one are struggling with issues of addiction or experiencing a relapse, we can help. For more information, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT