Relapse Prevention

Thank You, Dax Shepard: Learning From Relapse Transparency

Thank You, Dax Shepard Learning from Relapse Transparency

We are grateful to sober heroes like Dax Shepard for their transparency around substance use disorders and relapse. Here's what we can learn:

You may have seen headlines recently discussing Dax Shepard’s relapse with opiates after 16 years of sobriety, and more recently, his wife Kristen Bell’s response to it on Ellen (you can find the video here).

We are so grateful to sober heroes like Dax Shephard for their transparency and openness around substance use disorders, particularly with something as serious as relapse.

The sad truth is—relapse happens. It is dangerous, and it can be disappointing and embarrassing to admit to openly. By all accounts, Shepard’s experience was no different, and he struggled to go public with his truth. Without more brave examples like Shepard, however, people will continue to suffer and sicken in silence.

Thank you, Dax Shepard. Thank you for your honesty and for the lives you may have saved by being so open with something painful to you and your family. Thank you for helping people feel less alone in their struggles.

Here Are a Few Things We Can Learn From Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell’s Admirable Response to Relapse:

1)     Have a Relapse Prevention Plan, and Be Ready to Adjust as Necessary

Shepard’s relapse occurred despite having a plan, but the couple has discussed their intent to readjust and establish a stronger plan around what to do to prevent future relapse.

Prevention plans can include situational cues, like how necessary medication will be distributed, or emotional triggers and how best to cope with them on an individual and relationship level. Whatever makes the most sense for you and your loved ones should be discussed and firmly established.

It may even be helpful to establish a plan for if relapse does occur. What needs to be addressed? Will addiction treatment be necessary? These are questions that are more difficult to answer in the wake of relapse than prior.

2)     Know the Warning Signs

As Bell put it, “[Shepard said] I need to do some emotional work to figure out why I wanted to use again." Relapse does not occur in a vacuum. It tends to be a gradual process that begins with emotional and mental relapse before progressing to the resumption of physical usage.

Emotional warning signs can include isolating, no longer attending support groups, or worsening self-care. If things progress into mental relapse, warning signs include minimizing the consequences of active addiction, bargaining, or lying.

On his podcast, Shepard describes the fear and loneliness of beginning to be dishonest with those around him. He also describes the arrogance of his justifications: “I never thought ‘I’m not an addict,’ but I thought ‘I’m a smart enough addict to do this and be smarter than it and come up with a bulletproof game plan'."

It is helpful to know these warning signs. If they creep into your life it’s important to identify (whether on your own or with the help of a therapist) what underpins the desire to use once more. Therapy can also help us to develop healthy coping mechanisms for stressors. Which brings us to…

3)     Don’t Be Afraid of Therapy

Bell and Shepard will be attending therapy as maintenance for Shepard’s continued recovery, and that is something we all could learn from. Therapy is never something to be ashamed or afraid of—it is immensely helpful no matter the stage of recovery you or your partner are in.

Therapy can help with common negative thinking patterns like fear, catastrophizing, and defeatism. Whether individual, couples’ or family counseling is needed, therapy can be crucial in relapse prevention.

4)     Transparency Is Key

Shepard was able to start anew with his recovery once he came clean to his podcast co-host and his wife. His ability to rebegin recovery hinged on honesty with himself and those around him and that is a very important lesson. Looking back at some of his own warning signs, Shepard says “I stopped journaling because I didn’t feel safe being honest with that journal…I was no longer even being honest with the journal.”

The difficult part of transparency is the shame, guilt, and embarrassment often associated with the continued or renewed desire to use. It is so necessary to recovery, though, that feeling incapable of honesty is often a warning sign of emotional relapse. We must conquer the fear of judgment to begin or continue the recovery journey.

5)     Connection Is the Opposite of Addiction

Shepard was able to reconnect with himself and with the relationships he risked through relapse. His support network was able to rally around him in recovery because he came to them and asked for help. He says he received unconditional love in response to sharing his relapse and calls it “the definition of grace,” leading to feeling “optimistic for the first time in a very long time”.

Relationships in and out of recovery communities can be our best asset in recovery journeys, and asking for help in tackling addiction is never shameful.

If you or a family member need help to overcome addiction, please do not hesitate to reach out.

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Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Relapse Prevention

August 18, 2021