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Effective Relapse Prevention: How to Recognize the Signs of Impending Relapse [Updated May 28, 2019]
May 28, 2019
When your relapse prevention plan fails momentarily, do not let it derail all of your progress. After all, you or your loved one have worked hard to get this far. Your recovery journey may include some bumps in the road. In order to stay on track it is important to understand what is a relapse and how does it happen.
A relapse starts with a lapse, which is an instance of using once you’re in recovery. A relapse occurs when brain function changes due to using again, and you’re once again using compulsively despite negative consequences. How can you recognize the stages for more effective relapse prevention?
Relapse Prevention 101: Three Stages of Impending Relapse
Patients invest a great deal of energy in treatment to relapse prevention programming. In fact, it is a prominent feature in many treatment facility curriculums.
One thing that people in recovery learn right off the bat is that relapse occurs in three predictable stages. And each stage has its own signs and symptoms. Therefore, knowing each stage and associated signs helps those in recovery—and their loved ones—stay mindful of destructive thoughts and behaviors. Also, it helps to identify an impending relapse before it occurs.
Stage One: Emotional Relapse
During emotional relapse you’re not actually thinking about using drugs or alcohol. But, unhealthy behaviors and negative emotions may be setting you up to do just that. Denial is common during this stage. That is why it’s important to recognize the signs of emotional relapse and get help. Even if you do not think you need it, help will keep you from risking a relapse. The signs of emotional relapse include:
- Bottling up emotions
- Feeling isolated
- Skipping meetings or not engaging at meetings
- Focusing on how others affect your emotional states
- Poor self-care, such as eating an unhealthy diet or neglecting sleep
If you recognize these signs in your life, it is ok to ask for help. There is no shame in seeking help before you risk a relapse. Recovery is a daily journey. Almost everyone needs help along the way.
Stage Two: Mental Relapse
During mental relapse, there is a war going on inside of you. One part of you wants to use. But another part of you wants to stay in recovery. This internal conflict
As this stage progresses, you will likely to begin to lose your resolve. As a result you might try to bargain, such as by saying you’ll only use on vacation or just on Friday nights. These justifications are the first signs that you need to focus on relapse prevention. Other signs of mental relapse include:
- Frequent cravings
- Thinking about past use or the people you used with
- Lying to yourself and others
- Devising ways you might be able to control your drug use
- Considering opportunities for lapsing and planning your lapse around others’ schedules so you do not get caught
Stage Three: Physical Relapse
The third stage is when the lapse occurs. This stage is the actual use of substances. You head to the liquor store or make a phone call to an old friend, and at this point, it’s extremely difficult to stop the lapse. It is important to seek help immediately. Otherwise, the lapse can then very quickly escalate into a relapse of the addiction.
How to Survive a Relapse—And Come Back Stronger
Getting help at the first sign of an impending relapse is crucial. You want to head it off before disaster strikes. If a relapse does occur, it does not mean the end. Approaching it with gentleness, forgiveness and hope is essential for getting back on track in your recovery.1
When individuals view a relapse as a colossal personal failure, they’re more likely to feel overwhelmed and abandon their long-term goals. But when they focus on their past successes, acknowledge their strengths and delve into the issue behind the relapse, they’re more likely to successfully get back on track with recovery.
The most important thing, especially in early recovery, is to stay focused on three things. First is the recovery plan. Second, attend meetings and counseling sessions. And third, stay mindful of harmful attitudes and behaviors that could lead to a setback. Above all, hold on to hope, which is the foundation of recovery.2
Hope is the belief that the challenges of recovery can be overcome. And holding onto hope during a relapse or when one appears imminent can help you come back to recovery stronger than ever. A relapse or near relapse does not have to be the end of your journey.
How to Win Your Battle and Stop Relapsing
Relapse does not equate to failure. It does not make you a failure. It does not make you incapable of lasting sobriety.
You can win your fight. You can get sober. And you can stay sober for good.
I know because I was an addict. For 16 years, I cycled in and out of rehab. I suffered relapse after relapse.
And then I overcame my addiction. I discovered the MAXIMUM STRENGTH that exists inside all of us.
And after more than a dozen years helped 1000’s of others in their recovery process, I want to help you.
My best-selling book is an autobiographical look at addiction, relapse, and a broken treatment industry. The book details my journey through relapse and recovery. It can help you find sobriety. It can help you navigate a dysfunctional system. And you can get your copy here.
Use the book as a guide. Read it cover to cover or one chapter at a time. Use it as a silent partner in your fight. It was written for your. So use it however you want to win your battle.