Relapsing does not have to be a part of your recovery journey, but for many people, it is. The unpredictability of life can cause new, intense emotions that make it difficult to continue healthy habits. Recovery is a lifelong process, and part of that process is relapse prevention. The best way to prevent relapse is by being mindful of your substance abuse and mental health needs. You also need to be willing to adapt your treatment when necessary. You should develop new coping skills, find a new mental health professional, or change recovery groups.
Stages of Relapse
The earlier you recognize that you’re relapsing, the easier it will be to get back on a healthy path. It becomes harder to adjust your behaviors when you settle into old habits. You want to focus on healthier and more productive habits. It’s never too late to rebuild yourself by getting back on track. Understanding the relapse stages can make managing your substance use disorder (SUD) easier.
Stage 1: Emotional
This is the first stage of relapse. At this stage, you know that using substances will hurt your overall mental health, and you do not have plans to use them. However, you are resorting to old emotional management habits that could lead to a physical relapse. You might be shoving your overwhelming emotions beneath the surface, hiding them behind a mask, or bottling them up. It can be hard to recognize this. If you’re in the emotional relapse stage, you might notice yourself doing the following:
- Sharing less in recovery meetings
- Isolating yourself from your support system
- Focusing on other people’s problems
- Neglecting your physical health
Stage 2: Mental
The mental relapse stage commences when poor emotional management turns into temptation. At this stage, you are not using substances but thinking about them, possibly even obsessing over them. You are facing an ongoing battle between your desire for escapism and resistance to relapse. During a mental relapse, you may see yourself engaging in the following:
- Craving substances
- Glamourizing past use of substances
- Minimizing consequences of SUD
- Brainstorming ways to control substance use
- Negotiating with yourself
- Planning a relapse
Stage 3: Physical
The last stage of relapse is physical relapse. This stage occurs when you give in to your urges to use substances. While initial use may seem like an isolated incident, it can lead to further abuse of substances. Often, people physically relapse when they feel like they have an opportunity or enter a situation where they won’t get caught.
Steps to Take After a Physical Relapse
Physical relapse doesn’t mean an end to your recovery. It may be a roadblock in your recovery journey, but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed or need to start over. Instead, you will need to reevaluate your recovery plan. Likely this will mean seeking a more intensive treatment program to get back on track. You’ll also want to seek help from others in your support network, evaluate what led you to relapse, and take responsibility for your mistakes.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
If you’re experiencing any stage of relapse, it’s important to reach out to people. Talk with your mental health professional, loved one, or peers. This allows you to be honest about your mental health. It informs your loved ones know the type of support you need. Your peers and loved ones may be able to give you advice, perspective, and a shoulder to lean on. They can be your accountability buddies. Also, they might help you create environments that make you feel safer and more in control of your emotions.
Evaluate What Went Wrong
After relapsing, take the time to evaluate your recovery process thus far. Ask yourself these questions:
- What caused you to relapse?
- Was there an event that triggered intense emotions you couldn’t handle?
- How can you better prevent relapse in the future?
- Who can you reach out to when you think you might relapse?
Think about specific aspects of your mental health you want to focus on during treatment. Maybe there is a trauma you’re having difficulty processing or an emotional management skill you’re looking to improve upon. A mental health professional can help you pinpoint the cause of relapse and give you tools for future prevention.
Acceptance & Responsibility
Accepting that you’ve relapsed will help you move forward in your recovery. Acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake, and take responsibility for the consequences of your actions. This doesn’t mean obsessing over past mistakes but acknowledging that you’ve exhibited unhealthy behaviors you want to change.
Relapse Doesn’t Mean Starting Over
Returning to treatment after relapse will be different from the first time you entered a treatment facility. You will understand more about what to expect. You’ll know what you need to work on and what difficulties you might have applying the skills you learned. During treatment, you can practice them. Being more prepared will make the treatment more effective.
If relapsing is part of your recovery journey, do not hesitate to seek help and continue with treatment. We know that many treatment centers approach relapse by shaming the client. Restoration Recovery Center prides itself on being judgment free. We recognize all of our clients as complex individuals with different struggles. We know that everyone’s recovery journey will be different, and there is no one right way to recover successfully. Our mental health professionals will work with you to create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, please call Restoration Recovery Center at (888) 290-0925 for help.