What is a Relapse?
A relapse is when a recovering individual stops maintaining their goals of reducing or avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol and returns to previous levels of use. Repetitive substance abuse causes the body to get used to and reliant on drugs or alcohol, which can cause continual cravings even when drugs or alcohol are stopped. Relapse after rehab can be a normal part of the recovery process with 40 to 60% of people relapsing at some point along their recovery journey.
Understanding the Stages of Relapse
Relapse occurs through a process in 3 stages: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. The stages may unfold slowly or in rapid succession. Either way, recognizing the early signs of relapse can be key to getting help as soon as possible and preventing a full blown relapse.
The three stage of relapse are:
Stage 1: Emotional Relapse
During this stage of relapse, the person may not be thinking about substance abuse, but their emotions and behaviors may be setting them up for a relapse later on. Warning signs of emotional relapse are:
- Not going to recovery support group meetings like 12-step programs
- Isolation from peers and family
- Mood swings
- Poor self-care emotionally and physically
- Not managing anger, anxiety or emotional problems with healthy coping strategies
- Poor sleeping or eating habits
- Not asking for help
Stage 2: Mental Relapse
If the person does not work on emotional signs of relapse, there is an increased risk of relapse and moving into the 2nd stage: mental relapse. This stage of relapse is best described as an internal war with one part of them wanting to use drugs and alcohol and the other part not. It is normal to have occasional thoughts about using in addiction recovery, however in the mental relapse stage, they were thoughts of considering using rather than a passing thought. Signs of mental relapse include:
- Minimizing consequences of past use
- Hanging out with old friends who use addictive substances
- Fantasizing about using
- Planning relapse
- Imaging use
Stage 3: Physical Relapse
If the first two stages of relapse are not addressed, it won’t take long to have a full physical relapse. This is the actual act of using drugs or alcohol. It is critical to get addiction recovery help as soon as possible in this stage before things get worse.
Knowing Your Potential Relapse Triggers
During drug rehab, treatment programs will include relapse prevention programs. You will explore and learn your relapse triggers and how to deal with those triggers with healthy coping mechanisms. Some of the more common relapse triggers are stress, people or places connected to the drug or alcohol, negative or challenging emotions, sensing or seeing objects of your drug or alcohol addiction, and times of celebrations, such as holidays and birthdays.
Using Healthy Coping Strategies to Manage Relapse Triggers
You may be able to explore different healthy coping mechanisms during addiction treatment, such as yoga, deep breathing, and mindfulness meditation. Healthy coping mechanisms are essentially ways you can relieve stress, how to avoid panic mode, or challenging your emotions in other ways that do not involve drugs and alcohol.
What to Do if You Relapse
Substance abuse relapse can happen to anyone and it is quite common in addiction recovery. Do not feel like you have failed, it is just a setback and many recovering individuals relapse multiple times in their recovery journey. The number one thing you should do is reach out for help from a treatment center as soon as possible. Drug detox or alcohol detox may be a good place to start to get back into addiction treatment. Addiction recovery is difficult, but you have done this before and can get through it again.
The River Source’s Lifetime Recovery Guarantee
At The River Source, our drug rehab and alcohol rehab programs come with a 100% recovery guarantee. If you complete our treatment programs and put in the work required, you can return to addiction treatment at no additional charge if relapse occurs within 1 year. Our full continuum care provides personalized treatment plans for every individual and every type of drug or alcohol addiction. If you would like to learn more about our relapse prevention programs, please contact us today.