Relapse can be a frightening word for addicts and the loved ones supporting them through recovery. Thankfully, though, that fear can be eased through understanding the emotional, mental, and physical stages of relapse. By understanding those stages, it will then be possible to help your loved one to either avoid a possible relapse or else to get back on track again with treatment.
Spotting the Signs of a Relapse
There are many signs of relapsing, so it can be difficult to remember all of them. But what can make it simpler is to consider the three stages of relapse, as these will prepare you to spot the early warning signs during the process of a relapse.
The term “process” is used because the road to a relapse is not a singular event, but rather a collection of them that can culminate in the consumption of their preferred substance. The three stages consist of emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse.
Emotions can be incredibly destructive for addicts, as they have the potential to lay the groundwork for a relapse in the future. Signs like anxiety, intolerance, defensiveness, mood swings, and isolation are indicators of an emotional relapse. These are to be expected in the two years of post acute withdrawal syndrome that come after the end of substance use.
Mental relapse is a stage in which addicts are found to battle with their own mind over whether or not they want to use again. Later on during a mental relapse, addicts will genuinely be considering the use of harmful substances again. Among the telltale signs are thinking about the past, lying, fantasizing about using, and hanging out with old friends from your past.
The final stage is physical relapse, which describes the physical act of traveling to a drug dealer or liquor store with the purpose of becoming a user again. There isn’t much that can be done during a physical relapse, and so it is vital to identify the signs outlined above to avoid physical relapse.
Preventing the Stages of Relapse
Addiction relapse prevention needs to focus on the emotional and mental stages of the process, as it’s far more unlikely to prevent usage once an addict reaches the physical stage. To help prevent such an unfortunate outcome, advice is provided below on dealing with the emotional and mental stages of relapse.
A change in behavior is required to help an addict move out of the emotional relapse stage. You can never take it for granted that an addict will tell you of their symptoms, so you have to look out for those that were listed in the previous section.
During a mental relapse, little things such as eating habits and maintaining regular a regular sleep pattern can have a positive impact. Living a balanced life is the most effective way of erasing the stress that makes an addict want to use in the first place. Escapism is the enemy during this stage.
When in the mental stage of relapse, it is vital to consider the ramifications of using again. Even if you feel like you could get away with it at the time, would you really? How many times did you get away with it in the past? You’re not suddenly going to be able to control something that you could never manage before.
What you also need to bear in mind is that an urge might only last for 15-30 minutes, so taking the time to talk to a supportive friend about your urges can help you through those difficult moments. Urges are often brought on by tense feelings and stress. Thus, it is vital to relax in order to prevent the onset of urges.
Relapse is Not a Failure
Before eventually achieving a life of sobriety, many addicts have suffered a relapse. However, they had the strength and the support to try again and attain a sustainable life of sobriety. Not everyone manages to progress through the recovery process without suffering the heartbreak of a relapse.
For some addicts, relapse becomes a chapter in their recovery. However, a full-blown relapse is not a stage that every addict will encounter. That being said, they will have to employ some of the preventative forms of treatment during the emotional or mental stages to guard against using again.
You might be surprised to learn this next statistic, but you shouldn’t be. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 60% of recovering addicts have had to endure a relapse. Even people recovering from other medical ailments have a high relapse rate.
A relapse does not mean that an addict is a hopeless case. In fact, making it as far as they in their recovery bodes well for trying again. What needs to happen is that an addict seeks the same support that they received before and to then consider how their relapse occurred.