Recently, actor Dax Shepard shared a big secret with the world: he had relapsed after sixteen years of sobriety. On his podcast, Armchair Expert, he explained that he had been keeping an “enormous secret,” that he had been prescribed painkillers after a motorcycle accident and ultimately started misusing them. What started out as a prescription for OxyContin turned into a relapse.
It’s common for people struggling with addiction to keep the issue a secret, but hopefully not for long. Shepard explained that his tolerance for the drug started climbing quickly before he reached back out for help.
That story is all too common, but there are lessons we can learn from Shepard’s experiences that are applicable to anyone, whether you are mere days or decades into recovery.
- Addiction Can Affect Anybody
There is no set profile for someone diagnosed with a substance use disorder. There’s no median income, specific neighborhood, race, or education level that addiction prefers. The disease touches everyone from regular, small town people, to famous actors.
Not only that, but addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Oftentimes, it not only affects the person struggling with addiction, but also family, friends, colleagues and beyond. Shepard’s wife Kristen Bell shared that she and Shepard have worked on their relationship through counseling, but even through all their struggles as a family, she has stood by him. As the Shepard-Bell family has proven, no one is immune to the disease of addiction, but no one is incapable of recovery either, especially with the support of their loved ones.
- Relapse Can Happen No Matter How Long You’ve Been Sober
Studies show that 85 percent of people with a substance use disorder relapse within the first year of sobriety, though it is not uncommon for them to occur well into recovery. Relapse can happen for a number of reasons, but most frequently the reason is not having a long-term recovery plan and strong community connections. Most people can’t just go home after treatment and forget about drugs or alcohol, it takes time and strength to keep going. There will be tests and triggers every day, and the right treatment program will equip you with tools and resources to help you.
Shepard’s relapse occurred after he was prescribed Vicodin for a motorcycle accident injury. He became addicted to the pills but convinced himself – and others – that he was doing just fine. Meanwhile the problem started to spiral beneath the surface. Shepard shared: “I’m lying to other people, and I know I have to quit. But my tolerance is going up so quickly that I’m now in a situation where I’m taking, you know, eight 30s a day.”
For Shepard, the fact that the Vicodin was prescribed by a doctor led him to assume that he wouldn’t have a problem with the pills. When he realized he was struggling, he was too ashamed and fearful to admit it, which only heightened his addiction.
Others may face different triggers that can be just as difficult to deal with. High-risk situations are a common factor in relapse. If someone is returning to an unhealthy environment or back to relationships with people who are still using, that can play a big factor in a relapse. Trauma very frequently plays a part in relapse, and it is possible that Shepard or anyone else going through a relapse has underlying traumas that they will need to address before they can fully commit to staying sober.
- Help is Available
In his podcast, Shepard shared that he is currently attending support groups. Building community connections is imperative for people starting or re-starting their recovery. There’s Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Peer Recovery Centers, religious groups, and sponsors who are willing and ready to help guide you through the toughest parts of sobriety. Traditional treatment programs, like Spectrum, are also there to welcome you back in the event of a relapse. These support systems form a crucial component of any treatment plan, as no one should have to make this journey on their own.
In fact, Shepard shared that he’s even gotten his family involved in his recovery and often brings the lessons learned in his support groups to the dinner table. According to Kristin Bell, “Dax has suggested a couple times, ‘Let’s just name three things we’re grateful for.’ I am shocked at how into that our girls have gotten.”
For anyone struggling with their sobriety or who has recently relapsed, just know that it’s all a part of the process. Of course, we want everyone to stay sober, but you’ve done nothing wrong if you have relapsed once, twice, or even 10 times. Wherever you are in your recovery journey, Spectrum Health Systems is here to help.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call us today at 1-877-MyRehab and we’ll help you on the path to recovery.