Relapse is not a single moment. Relapse is actually a process that occurs in stages. These stages could last for months or even years before someone physically relapses. It is important to remember that relapse does not mean that you have failed your recovery journey. This bump in the road can be seen as a learning experience and an opportunity for growth. Regardless of where you are at in life, recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction is always possible.
Early Warning Signs of Relapse
Red flags may begin to present themselves through any stage of relapse. It is important for friends and family members of those suffering from addiction to keep a watch out for these signs. This will help them identify a relapse before it occurs and while it is in the early stages. Those who have abstained from drug and alcohol for a long time can experience some of the most dangerous relapses. This is because while they are in recovery, their tolerance levels go back to a normal level. Relapsing can cause them to take the amount they used to. This may overwhelm their bodies and cause an overdose. That is why it is also useful for those who are going through recovery to know the signs of a relapse.
One of the most common early warning signs is when the person in recovery has begun romanticizing their drug use. This is when a person looks back on their drug use in a positive way. They may begin reliving the days when they used to be involved with drugs or alcohol. When a person starts seeing their prior negative unhealthy ways as positive, it is often an early precursor for relapse. Another warning sign is that a person in recovery may feel that they cannot become addicted again.
Recovery is a Lifelong Process
They may tell you not to worry and that if they ever were to get involved in drugs or alcohol again, they would not become addicted. This is not true, as recovery is a lifelong process. A person in recovery may suddenly begin doubting themselves and the recovery process. They may talk badly about the program or reveal that they do not think their treatment program can work for them. This change in behavior is only the beginning and soon you may begin noticing other behavioral signs as well. During the recovery process, you may notice these changes as your loved one becoming more isolated, not communicating as much, and acting out of character. These changes in behavior could be a sign that you or your loved one may be falling back into their old routine.
First Stage: Emotional Relapse
Emotional relapse is often a difficult stage to determine whether or not someone is in. Those who have begun emotional relapse are not actively considering drugs or alcohol. However, they have begun to stumble. Their behaviors, specifically coping strategies, that they have learned in recovery are not being implemented. Their self-care practices have taken a hit as well. This is when you or your loved one will begin to isolate themselves. This could include friends, family members, and members of their support group. As the distance grows and self-care shrinks, stress levels will rise.
Second Stage: Mental Relapse
With the mental stage of relapse, a person realizes that drug and alcohol use is wrong and bad for them. However, they begin to think about them. The coping strategies that they previously learned may start to kick in. However, the person in recovery has entered a new headspace. They will begin to think about situations surrounding drug and alcohol use in a positive light. This is the stage when those in recovery will consider the use of drugs or alcohol once again. Since drug and alcohol addiction is a chronic brain disease, it requires a lifelong commitment to recovery. Falling off that mindset will lead to relapse.
Third Stage: Physical Relapse
When you hear about someone relapsing, they are most often referring to physical relapse. Physical relapse takes place after emotional and mental relapse. During the mental stage, your mind is battling back and forth on whether or not to go back to drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, addiction is a powerful disease and some people fall back into their unhealthy ways. The good news is that there are steps you can take to help prevent relapse. Even if someone has relapsed, there is still hope for recovery.
Relapse Prevention Tips
When it comes to relapse, prevention is key. When you or a loved one enrolls in a professional treatment program, your addiction will be treated and you will also learn new skills. These new skills will include healthy coping strategies, how to transition back into day to day life, and how to adopt new hobbies and habits. If you or a loved one begins to feel any unhealthy urges, it is best to speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Sometimes an important and much-needed step for relapse prevention is to reenter a treatment facility. This would help the person experiences the urges to be placed back into a positive and supportive environment. Speaking to someone at the treatment center can help guide the person to make the best choices and help them continue down their healthy path.
A common way to help prevent relapse is to keep the mind active with healthy tasks. These healthy tasks and habits help to replace the old negative things the person used to engage in. This helps to fill their time and keep their mind from wandering. Exercise is a great way to allow the body to release energy and make you feel good naturally. This could include hiking, running, and biking. Someone may also choose to pick up new hobbies, such as art or sports.
What to do if Relapse Happens
Relapse happens every day and when it does, it is important to act appropriately and promptly. You will want to get into contact with someone who can help you get back on the right track as soon as possible. Falling back into the same rut can happen quickly. Those who relapse often experience feelings of guilt and shame. Isolating yourself and refusing to acknowledge those emotions will further complicate the problem. It is okay to come to terms with these emotions and ask for help.
There is always a way back to recovery and sobriety. The Arizona Addiction Recovery Center features individualized care, specializing in relapse prevention programs. Their program does not just help their patients overcome addiction, but also sets them up for success in life. Change your life for the better and get back to a healthier you.
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Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Arizona Addiction Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 888.512.1705.