Just because someone relapses, does not mean they failed at recovery.
It’s important to view relapse as a learning experience taking into account what not to do the next time around.
Often relapse is thought to have three separate stages:
1. Emotional relapse
During this stage, a person is not actively thinking about using a drug or drinking alcohol. However, their behavior and actions may be setting them up to head down that road.
Emotional relapse can be detected through symptoms such as anxiety, intolerance, anger, defensiveness, mood swings, isolation, failing to attend meetings and poor sleeping and eating habits.
It is believed that this stage of relapse aligns with Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), during which an addict experiences emotional and psychological withdrawals rather than physical ones.
Take away the fear caused by relapse
Look out for the signs
Knowledge is power
#002: Mental relapse
During this stage, the mind is battling between using and not using.
Part of the addict wants to use, while the other part of them wants to continue with their recovery.
Signs of mental relapse may include reminiscing about the people and places associated with your past life, glamorizing your past use, lying, spending time with people you used with, thinking about relapse and even planning relapse.
Often, recovering addicts are the only ones who can really pinpoint these symptoms of mental relapse as internal battles are harder for others to pick up on.
Techniques To Prevent Mental Relapse:
1. Call someone. Talking your urges through with another person can help in determining why you want to use and why you shouldn’t.
2. Make yourself wait 30 minutes. Before impulsively acting on an urge to use, wait half an hour and reevaluate your urges and your reasoning behind them. Sometimes the passing of time can help clear things up in the mind.
3. Think about what would happen if you used. Likely it wouldn’t stop at one, you’d eventually find yourself at the same bottom you previously hit, if not a deeper one.
4. Don’t think about every day. Think about today. Even people who have been sober for decades take their sobriety one day at a time. Thinking about it in terms of years or forever is too intimidating for anyone, and will likely result in feeling overwhelmed and wanting to use.
Instead of thinking about forever, focus on making it through one day without using.
Then focus on that again the next day and repeat.
Before you know it, the days will add up.
#003: Physical relapse
This stage of relapse includes the actual physical decision to use.
When hitting this stage of relapse, some people will continue to use for months, but others realise what they’ve done and the focus becomes recovery.
A common recovery strategy is to replace your current addiction with positive activities; such as:
Useful Tasks – Cooking, cleaning etc are activities that lead to a sense of empowerment and contribute to an environment of well-being that supports sobriety.
Exercise – Running, lifting weights, walking, and yoga are all hobbies that release endorphins within your body and allow you to feel healthier.
Art – Music, painting, writing, sculpting, etc. are some more artistic approaches you can challenge your brain to think in new creative ways.
Entertainment – Watching a movie or going out to a show are great healthy distractions for people to focus their attention away from any negativity.
Social Activities – It’s important to be social. However, it’s more significant you’re socialising with the right people.
Sports – Becoming involved in a sport allows you to commit yourself in a positive manner while gaining both the benefits of exercise and healthy socialising.
Volunteering – Helping others will only reinforce your passion to help yourself. There is never a wrong time for encouragement, whether it is for you or someone else.
Start filling your time with positive and productive things.
Try something new.
What To Do If You’ve Relapsed
Though a relapse can be daunting, there is always a way back to sobriety and recovery.
Sometimes it may seem like a long road, but that’s when one day at a time comes into play.
1. Talk to and spend time with appropriate people.
Rather than spending more time with your friends who use, call a sponsor or a sober friend and make plans.
If you feel comfortable, talk through the reasons for your relapse and discuss what you can do differently in the future.
2. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and recognise where they are coming from.
Relapse often results in emotions such as guilt, shame, and frustration, which are not enjoyable emotions, but are necessary to understand.
Continuing to bury your feelings will likely result in using again so it is important to let yourself feel and to validate those feelings.
3. Don’t isolate yourself.
Even though the last thing you probably want to do is spend time with friends who don’t quite understand what you’re going through, make the plans anyway. Spending time alone will result in feelings of isolation which can often lead to another relapse.
Brush yourself off.
Treat it as a learning experience.
Get back on track.