In a series of recent articles, Miley Cyrus, who was 6 months alcohol free, admits to “falling off” during the pandemic. She says she is now “focusing on sobriety” after a relapse a few weeks ago. Miley is not alone in her struggles. And by speaking out, and reclaiming her recovery, she serves as an example to those who have faltered during these trying times. COVID-19 has presented challenges for those in recovery – especially those new to recovery.
Relapse and Recovery
Addiction is a chronic disease, which means that for some people relapse (a return to drugs/alcohol) can be part of the process. Relapse rates for addiction are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses, like heart disease, or asthma. It follows, that when people stop adhering to their recovery treatment plan, it is likely they will relapse. And during a pandemic, life has been turned upside down.
Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed. When a person recovering from an addiction relapses, it indicates that the person needs to speak with their doctor to resume treatment, modify it, or try another treatment.
What about Miley Cyrus?
During the pandemic, there has been a rise in drug and alcohol use, overdoses, drug-related emergency room visits, and overall stress and isolation. An Addiction Policy Forum (APF) survey, shows that more than a third of the respondents have experienced “disruptions accessing treatment or recovery support since the start of the pandemic”.
Cyrus says that a “cocktail of chaos” – a breakup, the wildfire that destroyed her home, and the pandemic are the reasons for her introspection and the decision to completely eliminate alcohol from her lifestyle. During the pandemic, she says she “fell off”.
I like a lot of people, being completely honest, during the pandemic fell off…I realise that I’m now back on sobriety…and I feel like I’ve really accepted that time and one of the things I’ve used is: “Don’t get furious, get curious”. So don’t be mad at yourself, but ask yourself, “What happened?
Miley Cyrus from Elle Magazine – Miley Cyrus Opens Up
What Happens After Relapse?
What happens after a relapse? Like Miley, you get back to focusing on sobriety. And the coping mechanisms, tools, and experience you have stockpiled will be an advantage. Also, the pandemic has given rise to new treatment options with telehealth. Lists of online resources such as virtual meetings, apps, podcasts, and other recovery resources can become a regular part of ongoing support during the pandemic and beyond.
Addiction is a chronic disease and we want to make sure our clients are prepared if/when relapse occurs. It is common after a relapse to sit in the shame, which at times, leads to deeper depression and extended relapse. When relapse occurs, the first thing to do is tell someone. Someone you trust that will support and encourage you as you continue this journey of recovery.
Self-compassion is a vital part of long term sobriety. Caring for yourself, knowing your triggers, will assist with developing your resiliency. Having a solid plan for potential relapse, is paramount for those in long-term sobriety.
Lynnel Brewster, RN, LPC, LLMFT, CCTP, Sanford Clinical Director
Speaking up …
It is of note, that for someone like Miley Cyrus, “telling someone” about her lapse means the whole world is listening. It is courageous to speak up. But when an outspoken, A-list celebrity talks about her struggles with sobriety, it goes a long way to lessen the stigma associated with addiction, relapse, and anxiety. Thank you Miley.