The Reality of Relapse
Are you worried about a relapse? Have you already faced one? Well, if you have, you know that it isn’t a fun climb out of it.
No matter how good a treatment program is, there’s still somewhere between a 40% and 60% relapse rate. Luckily, you don’t have to face these challenges alone.
Let’s talk about relapses, how you can prevent them, and how you can treat them.
What Is A Relapse?
A relapse is when somebody who is overcoming addiction seeks out the substance they are overcoming. This comes in two waves. There is the emotional or psychological relapse, which is the one you want to avoid, and physical relapse.
Emotional relapse is when somebody makes the decision that they don’t care anymore and that they are ready to go back to abusing substances. The physical relapse is when they actually use the substance, which should obviously be avoided as well.
The reason that emotional relapse is the one you really need to worry about is that if that decision is made, it will be a lot more difficult to get yourself back on track.
A physical relapse doesn’t necessarily have to come after an emotional relapse. It could be that the recovering person finds themselves in the wrong environment for their recovery and makes a slip. This may not even require further treatment beyond continuing to attend 12-step meetings. An emotional relapse, however, is much harder to pull out of.
Early Signs Of Relapse
The early signs or a relapse, especially the ones leading up to a potential relapse, are critical to understanding if you want to prevent relapse from happening. The early signs are missing or skipping recovery meetings, hanging out with the wrong people, and depression or despair.
Big life changes, hostilities between loved ones, and other major stresses are also big factors that play into relapse.
Being in certain environments can also trigger a relapse. Being in a place or around certain people that you relate to substance use is a serious risk factor that can lead to a relapse.
Even times of celebration can be a big risk factor, especially if alcohol was the substance involved in your addiction. This is because alcohol is such a commonly-used substance in these circumstances and you will likely be surrounded by people drinking at one point or another. This could be a wedding, a holiday, a birthday, or any other event.
If you are noticing these signs in a loved one, reaching out and asking them if they need help may be the difference between relapsing and staying sober.
If you’re experiencing these early warning signs and you find yourself craving this substance, you need to reach out for help. Think about what it is that you need to get your mind off of the substance, and take that first step before it’s too late.
For example, if you’re at a Christmas party and you find yourself craving alcohol, talk to a loved one that you trust and let them know how you are feeling. Sit with them, ask them to keep an eye on you, or ask them to talk to you in another room. If the feelings persist, remove yourself from the situation. Having fun is not worth the risk of a relapse.
If it’s a general, overall feeling and you’re noticing signs that may lead to a longer-term concern, take steps to prevent a relapse. For example, if you’re in a toxic relationship, stuck in a hostile environment, or you are just having cravings, take steps to remove yourself from situations that are exacerbating those feelings, and continue attending your programs.
Let your loved ones know how you’ve been feeling, even if you don’t want their help. They will appreciate the communication, and you won’t have to go through it alone.
To prevent emotional relapse from taking hold, keep up with a regular diet and exercise routine, keep yourself busy, have leisure time planned out, and keep attending meetings.
In the event that you or your loved one relapses, don’t lose hope. The truth is that it’s perfectly common and not the end of your journey but a bump in the road.
If you haven’t been attending your programs or counseling, now is the time to at the very least do that, as well as reach out for support from your peers, and look at all of the different treatment options available to you.
If you believe you are in or approaching an emotional relapse, inpatient therapy is likely to be your best solution. This will get you the help you need and keep you in a stable environment away from the substances you’ve been fighting so hard to avoid.
If you truly believe it was a one-time, keep going to therapy, keep attending your meetings, and reach out to your loved ones for help. Getting sober is only the first part of the battle. Taking steps to make sure you stay sober is just as important. There is also partial hospitalization treatment for certain circumstances.
Don’t Do It Alone
If you’ve experienced a relapse, the worst thing you can do is to try to overcome it alone. Reach out for help immediately and get yourself back on the road to recovery. Keep up to date with us on all of our latest tips to maintain your sobriety, and find out about intensive outpatient treatment.
Medically Reviewed: July 20, 2021
Medical Reviewer | CWC Recovery Staff
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.