Remember those little Etch A Sketch toys? You turned little dials to draw a picture and then shook the whole thing up when you wanted to erase it and start new? A clean slate. Detox is kind of like that. Obviously, we don’t go around shaking people to get them clean. But we do shake the addiction, get rid of the toxins, and prep the person for a new, sober, healthier life. Unfortunately, some people don’t take advantage of that “clean slate.” They think detox cured them of their addiction and they’re free to go back out and use. Or they didn’t really find that will and desire to get clean, so they fall back into their old habits. We can call that initial retreat a “first shot gamble.”
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to stand up on their feet and face the sober world head on. It’s not easy, especially if you’ve only gone through detox and passed on a residential or outpatient program. The thing is, if you do decide to use again straight out of detox, the outcome can be deadly. That “first shot gamble” is exactly that: a gamble. Not only did your body lose its tolerance, but it’s also highly unlikely that the drug of choice for that first shot gamble is the exact same thing you were using before. Too often, a recovering addict who takes that first shot gamble won’t live through it.
Why Isn’t Detox a Cure?
A detox facility’s main purpose is to detoxify the drugs or alcohol from an addict’s body. It’s a safer, more comfortable alternative to quitting cold turkey. At a program like New Start’s detox facility, the individual will see a doctor to make sure all medical concerns are addressed at the beginning of detox. From there, the staff will constantly monitor and watch him to make sure he’s as safe and comfortable as possible. Vitals are checked regularly and medications are given in accordance to the drugs the addict is detoxing from.
Don’t get me wrong; all of this does really help give the addict a clean start into recovery. But it’s not a cure. Unlike the flu, addiction can’t just go away with some care, rest, and medication. It’s an ongoing presence in a recovering addict’s life. You’ll hear people at some fellowship meetings toss around the phrase, “Once an addict, always an addict!” While many people are uncomfortable with the label-like nature of this phrase, it essentially just means that we can’t simply be cured of our addiction. We can only learn to manage and abstain from it while continuing to work on recovery.
If you’re serious about seeking help for your addiction, detox is definitely the right place to start, especially if whatever you’re addicted to has a severe withdrawal, such as alcohol. But it’s crucial to remember that detox is merely helping you to get the toxins out of your body and set you out on your recovery journey. Assuming that it’ll cure you of your addiction is dangerous and might even help push you into taking that first shot gamble.
The First Shot Gamble
The first shot gamble is not a medical term. But it does describe that first hit after detox perfectly. If an addict is under the impression that their detox cured them of their addiction, they’re likely to go back to their drug of choice. But if they believe they’re cured, how does that make sense? Well, remember that detox only rids your body of toxins and prepares you for sobriety. The major behavioral and cognitive therapy that’s needed to help an addict see the truth of his addiction primarily happens after detox in outpatient and residential programs. So, an addict who has not gone through that secondary healing process tends to think his new, clean body can handle the drugs and won’t develop another addiction, especially if he thinks he’s only going to take one hit.
Let’s take a closer look at this mindset:
Why is the First Shot Gamble so Dangerous?
The main reason that the first shot gamble is dangerous is because of that tolerance issue. Chronic substance abuse will create a tolerance in the body. You’ll have to use more and more (or drink more and more) in order to get the same high. When a person enters detox, they’re usually at their lowest. Let’s put it this way: it’s not uncommon for people to come into detox still high. And that’s okay; the person is struggling with addiction. No one expects him to be able to get clean without help. That’s why he’s going to detox, after all. But if he leaves detox and hasn’t developed his own will to stay clean and sober, he’ll probably use again. And because he was probably at his lowest right before entering detox, his tolerance was probably at its highest.
It’s probably not his first thought to factor in his tolerance decrease during detox when he goes to take that first shot gamble. But if he uses the same amount he was using before detox, the outcome can be lethal. Remember, detox rids the toxins of drugs and alcohol from the body. Your tolerance is essentially nonexistent after that. Your body won’t be able to handle the amount you used before. Overdose is the most likely outcome.
The first shot gamble is also dangerous because of the purity (or lack thereof) of the drug. Perhaps it’s cut with more fentanyl or some other toxic or lethal substance. While this issue is incredibly dangerous for addicts who are still deep in their addictions, it’s even more severe of an issue for those straight out of detox. Fentanyl, for example, is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s cut into drugs because it’s cheaper and easier to make. But if your body is going to have a hard time handling your drug of choice to begin with, fentanyl is only going to spike the risk of adverse effects like overdose and death.
Mourning the Recovering Addict
It’s easy to talk about this issue in a matter-of-fact manner when we’re just talking about the risks, dangers, and science behind it. But the truth is, too many of us have friends and loved ones who’ve suffered from this first shot gamble. When your loved one goes into treatment, you expect them to get better. You hope they don’t go back out to the street to relapse. You pray that if they do retreat, that first shot gamble doesn’t end in death. But all too often, it does. And everyone is left brokenhearted.
Recovery takes work and it takes will. We have to teach ourselves to be strong and strive for sobriety everyday. Treatment centers like New Start do their best every single day to help people out of addiction. But the addict needs to have that desire too.
Your life should not be a gamble. It should be beautiful, happy, and strong.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, New Start can help. Please don’t hesitate to call us at 855-737-7363 or reach out to us on our live chat. Let us help you get your life back.