The first step in beating addiction is recognizing that a problem with drugs or alcohol exists. However, remaining sober without support can be challenging. Understanding what phases are included in a relapse can help with preventing the relapse from occurring.
Relapse prevention plans can be established to help with long-term recovery. Recognizing the signs of a relapse and what may occur before the physical taking of the drug or drink may help with continued recovery from addiction.
What is a Relapse?
A Relapse refers to the resumption of drug use after a period of abstinence. Drug addiction is a chronic disease, and users can slide back to their drug life no matter the length of their clean period. The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that 40 to 60 percent of people on their path to recovery are likely to experience a relapse. That means most people will experience at least one relapse in their recovery journey.
However, a relapse does not mean treatment has failed. Sometimes relapses could be considered part of the treatment process. Nevertheless, individuals should work on preventing relapses to achieve their goal of living a drug-free life. Prevention of relapses helps keep the patient on the recovery path since a single lapse may make it harder for the individual to recover.
A relapse prevention plan should be the goal after managing to overcome dependence. Understanding what causes someone to relapse can help the patient and family prevent a resumption of use. However, relapse is not an event but a process that requires close observation.
Stages of a Relapse
There are three stages of relapse.
- Emotional relapse
- Mental relapse
- Physical relapse
Understanding each stage is key to preventing relapse into alcohol or the use of other drugs. Those involved in the recovery process should appreciate that relapses happen long before physical use. Closer attention should be paid to emotional and mental relapses since the physical stage is just a culmination of the two.
Emotional relapse is the first sign that one is about to resume their drug life. Unfortunately, this stage is somehow discreet. The recovering individual does not think about using, yet their emotions and behavior set the stage for a relapse. Denial is common in emotional relapse since the individuals do not consciously think about use.
Although the user does not consciously think of use, the following signs point to the possibility of relapse;
- Hiding emotions
- Avoiding others and enjoying being alone
- Blaming others for their predicaments
- The individual appears more concerned about other people’s problems
- Poor sleeping habits
- Poor eating habits
The signs can vary from individual to individual, but the focus should be on self-care. Individuals in this stage have poor emotional, physiological, and physical self-care. Patients can tell they are experiencing emotional relapse if they are always hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Therapy at this stage focus on helping the individuals deal with denial.
After the emotional stage, the next phase is the mental relapse. Unlike emotional relapse, users become consciously aware of their desire to use. However, part of the mind tells them not to.
A battle between use and the commitment to their goal ensues. If this war continues without help, the desire to resume the drug life overcomes the cognitive resistance.
Here are the signs to look for in a mental relapse;
- One begins to experience a strong desire to resume drug use
- Individuals get nostalgic memories of their drug life
- One begins to question the consequences of drug use
- Develops a bargaining attitude such as use on holidays or weekends only
- Individuals seek ways of resisting a relapse
- Eventually, one begins to plan a relapse
Therapy at the mental relapse stage focuses on helping the individual develop coping mechanisms. However, recovering addicts and their families should know that thinking about use is normal and not a sign of treatment failure. Thinking about use is only a sign of relapse that can be treated by seeking professional help.
Physical relapse refers to the actual resumption of use. At this stage, the recovering user takes the first bottle before sinking back into the uncontrollable abuse.
In most cases, the first lapse occurs during a window of opportunity. The users take advantage of instances like being alone on a Sunday afternoon. The window of opportunity leads them back to abuse.
Signs of Relapse
Most signs of relapse on drugs have been covered in the three stages. However, here are some quick indicators that you are only a few steps away from relapse;
- Glamorizing the drug life. One begins to remember the good old days of drug use.
- Doubting the consequences of drug abuse. Being skeptical of the impacts of alcohol or other drugs is another warning that one is almost at a physical relapse.
- Doubting the effectiveness of the recovery process.
What is a Good Relapse Prevention Plan?
A relapse prevention plan is developed after identifying signs in every stage. Using treatment plans like Cognitive therapy, one can pick the triggers, change the negative thinking and develop coping mechanisms. One should seek help during the emotional relapse to prevent progression into the mental and physical stages.
Family members and friends can help identify the signs of emotional relapse and help their loved ones seek treatment. However, one should understand there is heavy denial in emotional relapse. The patient may not accept they are in the first stage of relapse.
A good relapse prevention plan entails typically:
- Overcoming the negative thinking and fear of not living up to your expectation and that of others
- Developing new hobbies and getting activities that prevent glamorizing the drug life
- Setting healthy limits and seeking professional help
Get Help in Temecula, CA
Relapse is sometimes apart of the path to recovery from drugs and alcohol, but it does not always have to be. A relapse happens in phases before the actual act of taking drugs or alcohol occurs. Averting a relapse with a relapse prevention plan can help with long-term recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, reach out to Inland Detox today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our residential treatment program.