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How did my son have a relapse in his drug addiction?

Sheila Dunnells
Addiction Medicine
First in a series: Falling Apart At the Dreams
Relapse does not just happen. There are steps backwards. Take enough of those steps backwards, and yes-- then it just happens. In order to avoid relapsing, you have to catch the signs. Once you identify the people, places, things that trigger an urge to use, you can sidestep it. Harry had done a month in a rehab for drug use. His drug of choice was cocaine, when he could afford it;he used E when he could not. This afternoon, Harry was hungry and angry. He had not noticed he was also lonely and tired.

They told him in Rehab never to get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired (H.A.L.T.). Since his recovery, he avoided his drug-using friends. Lonely settled into his life. Sleeping was still a problem. Harry took his hunger to the kitchen. He wanted pizza. However, there wasn’t any in the freezer. Since his mother hadn’t stocked the freezer with pizza, he rooted through the refrigerator. Nothing to eat. He went looking for his younger brother; maybe he had something. Pete sat on his bed reading a book. When Pete saw his older brother enter his room, he looked up and smiled. “Hi, Harry. Want to read this book to me.” “No. I am looking for something to eat. Do you have anything?”  “Yes,” chips. Do you want them?” Nah, I want pizza. I guess I will go buy a slice.”

Drug Friends: Harry enters Pizza Haven and sees some of his former drug-using friends.They ignore him. Harry is feeling lonely, so he figures having a slice withthem cannot jeopardize his sobriety. He takes his pizza and walks to their table. "Can I sit down?” They look at one another hesitantly, and then decide to welcome him. They are talking about meeting up later. They have a fresh supply of E. Harry's blood pumps. He hadn’t felt this alive in six months. He finished his pizza and left.

Home: At home, Harry felt restless. He had choices but none he wanted. No, he wanted to meet his friends. What could it hurt?

Parents: Identify the steps to Harry’s slip into relapse. Did you recognize all of them?
  1. H.A.L.T.
  2. Angry at the food supply
  3. Sitting with his former drug using friends
  4. Thinking about the days when he got high in the woods
  5. Not choosing any of the healthy alternatives for his restlessness
  6. Believing he could be with drug using friends and not use E.
  7. Meeting his friends

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.