The Dangers of Relapse: Essential Tips You Need to Know

Addiction Relapse is more common in dependency treatment than one would think; this is a fact many experts in the field will tell you early on in recovery. Studies show as many as 85% of people suffering from addiction experience a relapse. Relapsing can feel like a personal failure for many individuals battling addiction, but it can offer someone in recovery a lot of insight and valuable reflection. If you can learn from your relapse, it just might be the lesson that keeps you sober for the rest of your life.  

While relapsing can undoubtedly be disappointing, it is vital to remember that it is not a sign of weakness. Relapsing is a symptom of the disease of addiction, also called substance use disorder. It’s not a character flaw or moral issue. This blog post will discuss the risk factors associated with relapsing, coping tactics for preventing relapse, and treatment options if you do relapse. This information can help you stay focused on your long-term life goals.

What Is Addiction Relapse, and What Are the Risk Factors?

Addiction relapse is when an individual recovering from addiction falls back into their substance use or previous drug-using patterns. The first step to prevent relapsing is recognizing the risk factors associated with it. Common risks include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Complacency
  • Boredom
  • Social triggers
  • Sleep deprivation

Major life events can also put an individual at high risk for relapsing. These include distressing events like:

  • Job loss
  • Financial challenges
  • Death of a loved one
  • Relationship issues
  • Legal problems

It is essential to be conscious of these triggers to create a strategy for avoiding them. 

What Are the Stages of a Relapse?

Most prevention experts agree that relapse develops in four distinct stages:

1. Pre-contemplation

In the pre-contemplation stage, the person may not feel like they have any problem with their current behaviors. They are in denial about the severity of the addiction or its consequences.

2. Contemplation

Contemplation happens when someone considers relapsing but has not made plans or taken any action to make it happen.

3. Preparation

In the preparation phase, the individual starts making concrete plans to relapse and arranging all the necessary steps to ensure it happens.

4. Action

Lastly, in the action stage, the individual acts out on the plans and fully reengages with their addiction.

Knowing these stages can help individuals or their loved ones facing addiction to understand how the process works and the potential warning signs they should consider.

What Are the Different Kinds of Relapses Possible?

Individuals should generally be familiar with three types of relapses:

1. Emotional

Emotional relapsing is a reintroduction of problematic behavior, such as avoiding friends or engaging in self-destructive habits.

2. Mental

Mental relapsing occurs when the individual begins to contemplate using again and researches the quickest way to do so.

3. Physical

Physical relapsing is a total return to the usage of substances or addictive behavior.  

Fortunately, with the proper care from professionals and support from family members, relapsing does not have to be a barrier to lasting sobriety. It is possible to pick up the pieces and return to freedom from destructive cycles that keep you stuck abusing substances.

How Can You Avoid Triggers That Lead to Relapsing?

One of the most efficient ways to prevent relapse is recognizing and understanding your triggers. Relapse prevention is an integral part of the recovery process. It’s essential to be aware of potential cues that could drive you back into use, such as certain people, places, or things.

What Are Coping Strategies That Help Prevent Relapse?

There are many different coping strategies you can use to prevent relapsing. Several include keeping busy while working to identify and avoid triggers. Helpful activities and habits include:

  • Engaging in self-care activities like exercise or meditation
  • Maintaining a balanced lifestyle with regular routines for meals and sleep
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Joining a support group or 12-Step program
  • Talking to a therapist or counselor
  • Enrolling in a degree program or class
  • Learning a new hobby
  • Spending time with loved ones

What Should I Do If I Relapse?

If relapse occurs, treatment options are available to help you manage the experience and get back on track. These include comprehensive approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which allows individuals to process and develop healthier coping strategies. Family counseling is also a practical option for many because it focuses on communication and problem-solving skills. Group therapy or support groups are other options after relapsing.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is another approach many consider. MAT combines therapy with medications like buprenorphine or naltrexone to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Lastly, some individuals in recovery choose to attend residential treatment programs, which offer individuals a 30-90 day stays within a facility where they can work closely with experts and other addicts focused on recovery. While living in the treatment facility, individuals can learn more about their addiction and how to navigate life after chronic drug use.

What Can You Learn from Relapsing?

Relapsing can be a challenging experience, but it also serves as a valuable learning opportunity. By objectively looking at the event, you can understand more about your addiction and what led to the behavior. In most cases, relapses can often be warning signs of psychological and emotional distress. Often addressing the source of stress can prevent relapse.

Additionally, taking an honest approach and being willing to learn from mistakes can provide insight into potential improvement areas. With increased awareness of relapse risk, you can make choices that reduce temptation and make sobriety easier to manage.

How Can You Overcome the Shame and Hopelessness of Relapsing?

Experiencing a relapse can be a brutal blow in the wake of addiction. It can lead you to experience deep feelings of shame and hopelessness. However, the relapse should not be seen as a step backward but rather as an opportunity. If you can reframe the experience, it can help you pinpoint where the relapse prevention might have broken down, so that meaningful and lasting change can occur.

More importantly, a relapse is neither final nor fatal. If you woke up this morning, it simply means that different strategies may need to be employed to reach healthy sobriety. Learning from past slips can create new relapse prevention plans.

How Can Outpatient or Partial Hospitalization Programs Help Individuals Recover from Addiction or Prevent Relapse?

Outpatient or partial hospitalization programs can be invaluable to individuals struggling with addiction and relapse. Through education about triggers and the development of preventative skills, these programs help individuals see the value of recovery and provide the support system needed to sustain it. Outpatient programs also allow individuals to remain connected to their daily lives while receiving treatment.

Partial hospitalization programs typically pair comprehensive day treatment with a safe home environment. This dynamic approach allows users to rebuild their lives at home while decreasing their risk of relapse. Many patients who have previously undergone detox benefit from this intermediate level of care before they transition back into everyday life. Overall, outpatient and partial hospitalization programs prevent relapsing and promote long-term sobriety within a more controlled clinical environment.

How Can Family and Friends Support Loved Ones Who Are Struggling with Addiction?

Family and friends can be essential in supporting their loved ones struggling with addiction. The most imperative thing they can do is to provide a non-judgmental environment for addicts to express how they feel. It is important to listen without being biased or offering solutions. Being supportive, compassionate, and open allows an individual in recovery to feel heard and understood.

Providing emotional support by showing empathy, patience, and encouragement is also beneficial. Additionally, individuals can help their loved ones by connecting them to local resources such as therapy, 12-Step programs, or support groups. Offering rides, attending meetings, or sharing helpful information all contribute to the support that leads a loved one to sobriety.

GateHouse Treatment and Addiction Relapse

If you have just relapsed or are contemplating a relapse, you have options that don’t include more despair or increased substance use. GateHouse Treatment offers clients, just like you, recovery options that can lead to lasting sobriety and the life changes needed for a fresh start. You don’t have to do this alone. Reach us at (855) 448-3707 or visit us here.

With the right tools and resources, it is possible to prevent relapse and continue healing. 

GateHouse Treatment Editorial Staff
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