We have all heard the adage that “relapse is a part of recovery.” While it is true that many people return to substance use after a period of sobriety, experts agree that relapse is not an isolated event but a process, and awareness of the process is vital. If a relapse does occur, it is up to the individual to decide whether or not returning to treatment is the next right step.
Is It a “Relapse”?
Relapse occurs when a person recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) begins using again. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines relapse as the “recurrence of behavioral or other substantive indicators of active disease after a period of remission.” Relapse can happen even after years of abstinence, which is one of the most difficult challenges in recovery.
There are different degrees of relapse, from a “slip” or a “lapse” (using again after a period of abstinence) to a full-blown return to active use. Experts agree that relapse is best thought of as a process with different degrees of intensity, frequency, and stages.
What Are the Stages of Relapse?
There are usually three stages to a relapse: emotional, mental, and physical. Symptoms include:
- Emotional: A sense of hopelessness and despair characterizes the dynamic stage of relapse. Individuals in this stage may feel like they will never be able to overcome their addiction and may start to believe that using drugs is the only way to cope with their problems. This can lead to a downward spiral of negative emotions, eventually leading to a return to using.
- Mental: The mental stage of relapse is characterized by a loss of motivation and a sense of helplessness. Individuals in this stage may start to believe that recovery is impossible and that they are doomed to fail. This can lead to a willingness to give up on treatment and return to substance use.
- Physical: A return to substance use characterizes the physical stage of relapse. This can happen after a period of abstinence or after a period of decreased use. In either case, the individual has decided to use drugs again and started acting on that decision physically.
Getting back on track is much easier if this process can be interrupted in the emotional or mental stage. But, first, you must decide the proper course of action if you have returned to use or prior use levels.
What Is the Next Step?
If you have completed a treatment program for substance use disorder (SUD) and then relapse, it can be challenging to know what to do next. On the one hand, you may feel like giving up and returning to your old ways. But, on the other hand, you may be motivated to give treatment another try.
There is no easy answer, but there are some factors to consider. First, think about how well the original treatment worked for you. If you made significant progress before the relapse, it might be worth giving treatment another chance. On the other hand, if you never really felt like the first treatment was working, it may be time to try something new.
Consider how long you have been in recovery and how many lapses you have had. Getting back on track may be less challenging if this is your first time. However, maintaining sobriety may be more difficult if you have had multiple setbacks. How much support you have in your recovery is a crucial factor. If you have a robust support system, it may be easier to return to recovery on your own. If you do not have a strong support system, you may need the structure and community of a treatment program.
Ultimately, whether or not to return to treatment is a personal decision. It is crucial to assess where you are in this process and create or seek a program that fits your needs. If you have gone through a helpful treatment center program, reach out to see if they have an aftercare or alumni program to help you return to recovery.
If you have not returned to full-blown active use, review and revise your recovery plan to motivate yourself for sobriety. If you find that your use has spiraled and you cannot abstain on your own, there are many programs to choose from. Our program creates an individualized plan that meets your needs.
Whether or not relapse is a part of your recovery, remember that healing takes time. So be patient with yourself and know that you are not alone.
While there is no easy answer to the question of how to decide whether or not to return to treatment after a relapse, there are a few factors to keep in mind. First, consider the severity of your relapse. If you used substances for a short period or in small quantities, it might be possible to address the issue without treatment. However, if your relapse is more significant, it may be necessary to seek professional help. Consider how well you responded to treatment in the past. If you were previously successful in treatment, there is a good chance that you can be successful again. If you struggled in treatment or did not complete the program, it may be necessary to try a different approach. The decision of whether or not to return to treatment is a personal one, but help is available. Call Restoration Recovery Center at (888) 290-0925.