“Relapse”: a terrifying word to any addict desperately trying to push through rehabilitation and achieve sobriety. It is frighteningly common—with a 40% to 60% rate amongst addicts—and can not only occur after recovery but multiple recoveries. The idea of relapse is every recovering addict’s worst nightmare and can make so much effort feel utterly wasted. However, the process of relapse is not something that simply develops overnight.
In fact, relapse develops in three stages, and there are numerous ways to handle them. If you maintain an awareness of its signs and how relapse develops, you can prevent it in the long run. In rehabilitation, the goal is not only to stop addiction but also control how you handle it in the future.
Stage One: Emotional Relapse
The most difficult aspect of relapse is that it may not immediately feel like a relapse. The start of relapse begins emotionally, and all starts by simply reflecting on past abuse of drugs and alcohol. Typically, these memories are negative and remind a person of how they do not want to relapse; however, these memories can also trigger a downward spiral into isolation, making a person more reserved. They begin speaking less to their therapists, in social gatherings, and begin repressing inner turmoil and feelings.
This seclusion is done to avoid bad memories, prevent temptations, and avoid triggering addictive behaviors. Ironically, doing so ultimately encourages addiction because addicts begin to neglect their needs in therapy. If you begin to notice you or someone else is beginning to seclude themselves, seek talking to therapists or close friends and family. By opening about your problems, you can easily combat the earliest stages of relapse.
Stage Two: Mental Relapse
When an addict neglects to take care of feelings of isolation, relapse begins to progress further into the “mental” stage. As an addict, perhaps you have become irritable and depressed, deteriorating past the emotional relapse. By this point, the mind has become torn on whether to maintain sobriety or fall back into addiction. Unfortunately for some, the answer to maintaining those high-strung emotions is relapse.
The mental relapse is not one with signs that your therapist, friends, family, or others will catch. Rather, the only one who can truly identify the signs and start of a mental relapse is you. By paying attention to your mental thoughts, you can pinpoint signs of a developing relapse.
If you find yourself actively seeking opportunities for relapse, even just wandering thoughts, this can be a major red flag. In addition, searching for people or places related to your addiction and relapse is also dangerous. If you notice cravings for certain substances or find yourself actively lying about addiction, this means it is officially time to speak up. When you find yourself doubting discussing these topics with therapists or peers, this only gives more reason for discussion.
Stage Three: Physical Relapse
The physical relapse is when a person’s addiction relapse begins to go into full effect. Physical relapse can begin as an attempt to soothe symptoms of withdrawal—an unpleasant part of recovery. Withdrawal consists of uncomfortable symptoms such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, nausea, even seizures and heart attacks. Due to this heavy period of distress, addicts often begin believing the struggle is not worth it and fall into relapse.
This does not mean withdrawal is the only trigger of physical relapse. Physical relapse is fundamentally a result of the build-up of emotional and mental relapse, developing into a complete relapse. Physical relapse can arise simply from giving in to their urges, sometimes falling into an endless cycle.
However, there is an important takeaway that many addicts fail to understand: relapse is not a waste of time, nor does it mean you as an addict are a failure. Most addicts who suffer relapse feel defeated and hopeless in recovery, but relapse is not a reason to give up. Many treatment centers and alternatives provide options for relapsing addicts, such as continuing care programs. Despite how helpless relapse can make you feel, by persisting recovery, addicts can ultimately achieve a healthy life of sobriety.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, contact a local Treatment & Rehab alternative in Tennessee. You might be interested in Discovery Place’s own treatment center alternatives, such as our 30 Day Residential Addiction Alternative Recovery Program or our Long Term Alternative Recovery Program in Burns, Tennessee. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-725-0922.