What Is Relapse?
As it pertains to addiction and the process of recovery, to relapse is to begin using or drinking drugs or alcohol. It is still considered addiction relapse if you are in recovery and begin using a different substance, but those struggling with addiction typically return to the substance they were originally seeking treatment from.
The Stages of Relapse
Although it is possible for someone in recovery to relapse spontaneously through unexpected exposure to the substance, they became addicted to, relapse is often a slower struggle within the individual. This process can be broken up into three stages — emotional, mental, and the final physical stage of actually using drugs or alcohol.
At the emotional stage of relapse, the individual is not actively thinking about using yet, but an emotional groundwork is being laid that can set them up for addiction relapse down the road. People who use drugs or alcohol often do so to numb the emotional pain they are experiencing. In recovery, they learn and practice healthy coping skills to turn to instead of drug use. If they stop practicing them or using them effectively and begin to decline emotionally, they are more likely to consider substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
During the mental stage of relapse, the idea of using is actively on the mind. There is an internal battle going on inside of them — the logical part that doesn’t want to and understands the consequences, and the deeply rooted emotional part that doesn’t care and is beginning to desire the escape that substance abuse brings. This is different from the occasional fleeting thought that almost everyone in recovery has of using because at this stage, they are no longer actively preventing relapse and extensive consideration is going into making that choice.
Recognizing the Early Signs of A Relapse
It is entirely possible to prevent physical relapse by getting help during the emotional or mental stage. It can be difficult for individuals to recognize these signs in themselves and understand that help is available, but awareness is beneficial and can also help anyone to see that a friend or loved one is at risk and help prevent their physical relapse.
The earliest signs of relapse are negative changes in attitude and behavior such as isolation, being quick to anger, upset, or annoy, pessimistic outlook, and not going to meetings or following through with other steps in recovery. This all happens in the emotional stage and being defensive to the idea that they are at risk of physically relapsing is a common sign as well. They will insist that they don’t need help because they do not want to appear as though they might fail or be weak enough to fall back into substance abuse.
Closer to the risk of physical relapse you may notice they are start exposing themselves to relapse triggers like people or places from your past, also talking about past use and either minimizing or glamorizing their life at the time.
Internally, if you are starting to think that you can use “just once” and not fall back into addiction, or you are trying to create a chance encounter with the substance you used to use, please speak to someone about these thoughts. You are greatly vulnerable to a physical relapse.
What To Do if You or a Loved One Relapses
If you or someone close to you relapses, the most important thing to do is to not respond with disappointment or with the attitude that relapse equals failure.
It’s crucial to note that because it is more than just an isolated individual act, relapse can occur to anyone at any stage of recovery, but it is true that those newly attempting to overcome addiction are more likely to do so. It is even an anticipated part of the recovery process. Many individuals will relapse more than once before maintaining long term sobriety, and relapse does not mean you are a failure.
Help is available to everyone who experiences a relapse, and the ability to recover from substance abuse or alcoholism is entirely possible even after multiple instances of relapse. The important thing to remember and do is to keep the goal of recovery in mind and know that a life without drugs is the life you deserve.
Addiction Treatment after a Relapse – Serenity Oaks
Serenity Oaks Wellness is a leading drug and alcohol treatment center located in Fort Lauderdale, FL with a vision to support their clients as they break free from the stronghold of addiction and embrace a life of health, value, and fulfillment.
At our facility we specialize in aftercare, a system we have developed to facilitate relapse prevention. If you have recently relapsed, it is likely that you did not recognize the early stages of emotional or mental relapse and could have benefitted from a relapse prevention plan designed to recognize relapse warning signs and get you the help you need before a return to alcohol or physical drug relapse occurred.
Our recovery programs can be designed to integrate fail safes into daily routines so changes in behavior or other indications of a risk of relapse can be identified and outpatient treatment or individual therapy can begin. We also offer family therapy where loved ones can be educated with knowing the warning signs of mental or emotional relapse so they understand when to seek help.
Our recovery center focuses on customized treatment programs built around the individual and takes into consideration personal factors of them and their lifestyle, with intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization recovery programs available, as well as capable medical professionals who specialize in dual diagnosis therapy to target underlying behavioral health issues that often accompanies substance abuse disorder.
If you or a loved one is at risk for relapse or struggling with active addiction, reach out to a qualified staff member at Serenity Oaks Wellness for information on your next steps towards longterm recovery.