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Steven Tyler’s Relapse and Return To Rehab

Alexa Iocco Addiction , Addiction Treatment June 28, 2022

Steven Tyler's Relapse

Steven Tyler’s Struggle With Drug Addiction

During the 1960s at the height of the Vietnam War, America was introduced to LSD and other hallucinogens which no doubt inspired the culture of pleasure and carpe diem that lasted for the next 30 years. It seemed as though everyone collectively agreed that they needed to compensate for all the heartache the Vietnam War caused with drugs, alcohol, music, and partying. 

No one took this job more seriously than Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith who rose to fame initially in the 1970s. The band Aerosmith with members Joe Perry, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, and Ray Tabano then experienced a career revival in the mid 80s that rocked music news and skyrocketed into another level of fame as one of the most successful bands of all time.

Aerosmiths Steven Tyler started smoking weed in the 60s and 70s when the band first formed but with the exposure and availability of every illicit substance known to man that accompanied the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle, he quickly set out on a mission to try as much as possible. He’s quoted to say he “played with everything” when asked what his drug of choice was. He’s since revealed in interviews and even his memoir Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? that he regularly used cocaine, OxyContin, heroin, meth, methadone, LSD, and ecstasy. 

His drug use and lack of control escalated throughout the 80s, getting him in trouble with the law and putting strain on his bandmates and the image Aerosmith was associated with in the media. He attempted to enter rehab multiple times in ‘84 and ‘86 without completing the programs but after his band staged an intervention in ’88, Steven Tyler enters rehab. He would go on to stay sober for over a decade. 

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Why Steven Tyler Returned to Rehab

Despite being committed to his sobriety for 12 years and having no intention of abusing illegal drugs, Steven Tyler suffered a relapse in the early 2000s after taking prescription opioids following a foot surgery. His relapse and struggle with addiction lasted all the way until 2009 when he finally made a choice and voluntarily entered a treatment program. Steven Tyler revealed that it was because of his first stay in rehab in the 80s that gave him the courage to find help after he relapsed. 

Since then, he’s managed to have his longest run of sobriety, making it 13 years by “working the steps” and keeping up with his post recovery treatment to help him maintain his life free from drugs. Since 2009 he’s spoken publicly about his addiction, how it took over his life and how much he regrets the people he hurt during that time. In an interview a few years ago he emphasized that it’s not important how many times he’s relapsed or seeks treatment, what matters is that he didn’t give up on sobriety and now has a quality life he is grateful to be living sober. 

Unfortunately, Aerosmith recently had to cancel his Las Vegas residency tour dates in June and July because Steven Tyler voluntarily entered treatment in May following a relapse after needing to take prescription medication following a foot surgery to prepare for the stage.  

Aerosmith’s Message To Fans

There have been numerous times since the 80s where Aerosmith has threatened to break up as a band, and Tyler’s struggle with addiction has been a catalyst of this tension more than a few of the times. This time, however, the members of Aerosmith are on good terms and recently released a statement in support of their bandmate:

“As many of you know, our beloved brother Steven has worked on his sobriety for many years,” the band said in the statement. “After foot surgery to prepare for the stage and the necessity of pain management during the process, he has recently relapsed and voluntarily entered a treatment program to concentrate on his health and recovery. We are truly sorry to inform our fans and friends that we must cancel our first set of Las Vegas residency dates this June and July while he focuses on his well-being.”

Along with the members of his band, fans of Steven Tyler are sending him supportive messages as he enters rehab after relapse and well wishes as he continues his journey in recovery. 

It is thanks to the open dialogue of public figures who struggle with addiction that we are able to have a conversation about substance abuse and reduce the shame around relapse and asking for help. Addiction is a mental illness and needs to be addressed with a treatment plan the same way a broken bone or cancer is, not met with shame and judgment and decreased access to recovery resources. 

Warning Signs of Relapse

Relapse is the process and act of resuming drug or alcohol use after a period of sobriety. Almost everyone who struggles with substance abuse relapses at least once before being able to maintain sobriety. The chemical changes that occur in the brain after long periods of habitual drug use are difficult to overcome, especially alone, but it is possible for everyone and resources are becoming more available as awareness about the reality of addiction continues to be talked about and educated to the public.

There are several indications that someone is at risk for relapse and they separate into three stages. By identifying these indicators and getting appropriate help, relapse is entirely preventable. Some signs are internal and hard to recognize with others but even sometimes with yourself. Others are behavioral and it’s possible to detect and intervene before the physical act of relapse.

The Stages of Relapse 

There are three stages of relapse and an individual in recovery who is at risk of relapse is almost certain to go through the two warning stages of relapse before entering the final stage and physically relapsing. It’s common for those recovering from substance abuse to have intrusive random thoughts about wanting to use drugs or using drugs, but these are fleeting and do not indicate a threat to your sobriety. Relapse is premeditated by a drawn out emotional and mental stage where someone at risk of relapse fights with themselves over the decision to seek out drugs or alcohol and use. 

The Emotional Stage 

At this stage, the individual is not actively thinking about drugs or using but they are driving themselves towards a state where they will no longer use their learned and practiced coping skills to avoid using. Individuals in sobriety often create a routine and support system to keep them away from activities or thoughts that triggered substance abuse before and in the emotional stage they may fall off of doing these things and begin to exhibit changes in personality, acting withdrawn, depressed, uninterested. They are feeling like they are beginning to lose control but the idea that this might end in a relapse hasn’t crossed their mind yet.

The Mental Stage

At this point, drug or alcohol use is actively on the mind and this is where more observable indications that the behaviors exhibited before point towards a possible relapse in the future. Internally, this person is at war with the logical clear thinking part of their mind that understands that sobriety is the best quality of life for them and also is aware of the consequences of relapsing. This side fights with the part of the brain that has been altered by past drug use and wants to fall back on the unhealthy coping mechanism that at least for a time was an immediate and easy relief from their mental anguish. 

This means that instead of doing everything they can to maintain sobriety, they start to think of ways a relapse would be justifiable or not their fault. If they went to the area they used to live when they used and ran into an old friend who happened to have some then it’s not like it was planned, if they used just once and promised to stop then it wouldn’t count. 

Externally you might see them falling back into old routines, hoping they come across their substance of choice. You might also hear them downplay the severity of their addiction and how it affected their life. Or glorifying who they used to be. “I used to have fun, I wasn’t using all the time. Why can’t I do those things and just not use this time?”

If you see or hear behavior like this, speak to someone in their support system or their case manager about extra support to ensure your loved one seeks treatment so the process does not get to the next stage. 

The Physical Stage

This is the final stage of relapse, the physical act of using. Once any amount of drug or alcohol enters a recovered person’s system, it is considered a relapse and it is very important that steps are taken to redirect back onto a road of recovery. 

What to do if You or a Loved One Relapses

Respond with love, not anger or judgment. To yourself especially. That is the first step. 

You or your loved one who struggles with substance abuse are battling a mental illness, something that physically changes the way their brain processes hormones, endorphins, and emotions. Relapse is a common and even expected part of the full recovery journey and no one is any “less sober” when they do get clean again based on how many times they relapsed before. 

Help will always be available, treatment after relapse is always an option, and relapse does not mean you are any less deserving or capable of achieving or maintaining sobriety. Just look at Steven Tyler, he struggled with addiction for decades, relapsed again and again, after 6 years, 10 years, 13 years of being clean. 

It does not matter what number of times this is for him to be in rehab, but it is very important to focus on the fact that he is there, and returning to rehab after a relapse is a part of his recovery journey. 

Many times when you are still in residential treatment, you will put together a plan of what to do with those close to you in the event of a relapse. This will include details of who to go to for help, what doctors or therapists to contact, and what treatment program you’ll enter. After you relapse, go to your support system and let them help you put that plan into action.

If you haven’t formed this kind of plan or developed a support system, reach out to the SAMHSA’s national helpline either online or by phone and they can put you in touch with a local facility or therapist who will help you with the next steps. 

Resurgence Behavioral Health is a trauma focused recovery center that has locations across the country to make their treatment program accessible to you. They employ a staff with personal histories of addiction so you are surrounded by an understanding support system as soon as you arrive and develop relationships that will help you maintain sobriety once you leave residential treatment. They also specialize in dual diagnosis behavioral therapy that identifies and addresses the underlying mental health disorders that often trigger substance abuse so your personalized treatment can provide full healing to you and facilitate greater success in recovery after treatment.

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Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

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