Relapse starts before you think it does. When a person is said to relapse, often the assumption is their actual physical return to active addiction. Yet it’s not that simple. In reality, many thoughts, emotions, and actions have taken place even before this. Even before a person begins substance use disorder again, they have already relapsed. The key to avoiding a full relapse is to develop a relapse prevention plan.
These are the emotional and mental aspects of sobriety that have begun to falter. The physical side of addiction is likely addressed during or just shortly after detox. Once the body has been allowed time away from substance abuse, and given the opportunity to purge, detox is complete. By the time rehab lessons begin, the physical temptation of addiction is significantly lessened, if not voided completely.
What is a Relapse?
An alcohol or drug relapse is the recurrence of symptoms of the disease after a period of short or long-term recovery. Like any chronic disease, drug & alcohol addiction are subject to periods of remission and relapse. When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, many consider a lack of total abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol to be a relapse. During the recovery process, individuals may be exposed to certain triggers and other risk factors that increase the risk of returning to active addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. While relapses can happen and are common, they are not inevitable. Following drug relapse, taking action early and employing relapse prevention steps can reduce the likelihood of another relapse and minimize the intensity of a relapse.
3 Stages of Relapse
Sometimes people slip up and end up relapsing, which describes returning to using substances. Addiction relapse is often viewed as an event but, in reality, it is a process that can start days, weeks, if not months, prior to the physical relapse event. If you want to know what it is required for relapse prevention, you first have to know the stages that are involved in relapse.
Emotional relapse occurs long before the inkling of a craving enters your mind. This stage is the rise (or resurfacing) of negative emotions such as irritability, anxiety, or anger. Overwhelmed by these feelings, individuals abandon their newfound coping mechanisms and strategies which in turn, lays the groundwork for an eventual return to drug use.
When individuals with substance use disorder maintain poor self-care and live in emotional relapse for extended periods, they start to feel uncomfortable with themselves. This unpleasantness with oneself leads to irritability, discontent, and restlessness. Unfortunately, these negative emotions create a build-up of tension that can cause the individual to begin thinking about using to escape. Mental relapse is a war within the mind. One side wants to eliminate negative emotions by using drugs and/or alcohol, while the other side doesn’t want to relapse. Resisting relapse at this stage becomes more and more difficult, as the sufferer retreats deeper into this obsessive mental state.
Physical relapse, the final stage of relapse, happens when someone actively uses drugs and alcohol again. You can have a lapse, which is when you just use one time, or a full relapse, which is when you’ve returned to using drugs and alcohol regularly or in an uncontrolled way.
It isn’t impossible to get back on the road to recovery after you’ve had a full physical relapse. However, of the three stages of relapse, physical relapse is the hardest to stop.
Why Are Relapse Prevention Skills Important?
Relapse prevention skills are essential to learning to live a happy life in recovery. One day at a time, one can learn to implement these coping skills to prevent relapse and live a life beyond their wildest dreams.
Recovery from alcohol or other drugs is a process of personal growth with developmental milestones. At any stage of recovery, there is a risk of relapsing, making relapse prevention skills highly important to know and understand. Some of the most common triggers of relapse include:
- Money problems
- Relationship issues
- Certain sights and smells
- Certain people or places
- Falling into old habits
Most alcohol and drug treatment centers educate clients on relapse prevention techniques and help clients learn them in order to maintain recovery and achieve short- and long-term goals. There are a vast array of relapse prevention tools one can implement into their daily routine to help prevent relapse. There is a common misconception that relapse prevention skills should only be used when someone is having a desire to use. However, relapse prevention skills should be implemented into each recovering person’s daily schedule and routine to prevent or reduce the risk of cravings.
Resisting Relapse and Maintaining Sobriety
Resisting relapse isn’t as easy as it sounds. This is particularly true for those that attempt to detox and rehabilitate without the help of professionals. The accountability factor that is enforced within the facility promotes the reinforcement of making sober choices moving forward. By utilizing a relapse prevention plan as the first, second and third line defense, the risk of relapse declines dramatically. However, this takes practice, education and dedication.
In order to fulfill the intention of a relapse prevention program, addiction treatment centers will make education a priority. This means ensuring that each individual receives essential lessons and opportunities to strengthen sobriety and understand relapse.
Choosing to live and remain sober is what it means to be in recovery. It will always be the constant act of choosing to avoid high-risk situations and develop healthy habits free of substance abuse. The purpose of a relapse prevention plan is to compile the methods and lessons developed in addiction treatment. Then, by determining the most valuable ways to approach and avoid triggers, they can be applied to everyday life. An effective and well-rounded plan is one of the most important relapse prevention strategies you can learn in addiction treatment.
Helpful Relapse Prevention Tips to Cope With Triggers
Although coping with triggers may be more difficult, there are helpful habits to rely on when confronting them. In fact, incorporating them into a relapse prevention program can reduce the stress of triggers, and add to the quality of life.
Some of the helpful hints associated with relapse prevention plans include:
- Relying on your support system. Having others (like family members) around that support and celebrate your accomplishments holds you accountable and provides encouragement to succeed.
- Regularly attending support groups and sober meetings. Regular reinforcement, as well as open peer conversation, allows for a judgment-free space to vocalize feelings and accept the past.
- Getting healthy and moving. A relapse prevention plan encourages moving forward toward self-care. Get involved in a gym, sport, or club where you can meet new people with similar interests on the right track.
- Learning and practicing relaxation techniques, reflection, awareness, and grounding. Meditation and yoga are fantastic ways to build confidence and remain centered and focused on your new life.
- Speaking to yourself with kindness. It’s okay to remind yourself of the progress you’ve made and how well you follow your relapse prevention plan. Be kind to yourself and forgive yourself. Understand that by actively making changes to remain in recovery, you are succeeding.
Find Relapse Prevention at Harmony Ridge
If you find yourself wondering how you can ever live a happy sober life, remember the value of a relapse prevention plan. If you feel as though you may be on the verge of drug or alcohol relapse, help and support are available. Reach out to rehab professionals if you’ve relapsed and don’t know what to do next. Updating your relapse prevention program can make a difference and encourage a healthy recovery. Our staff members are ready and available to ensure that you get enrolled for the type of treatment you need. Don’t wait until it’s too late to face your addiction. Don’t miss the opportunity to maintain sobriety. Remember, you’re worth it and you deserve to be healthy, happy, and sober.