If you have gone through treatment, you are most likely feeling a sense of relief as you start to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. You might have the opportunity to repair relationships and start engaging with the things you are passionate about again, like your work or hobbies. The possibilities are endless when you are not being held down in addiction.
This optimism is warranted because of your brave decision to seek treatment and your hard work getting and staying sober. There are some precautions to consider, however, because addiction is a chronic illness that often entails periods of relapse. If you think about life before getting help, you can most likely remember numerous times when you attempted to stop using substances but inevitably fell back into it. Those relapses might be the reason you or your family ultimately decided that you needed extra support from licensed professionals.
Going to treatment does not mean you are “cured” of the substance abuse that brought you to seek help in the first place. Instead, it provides you with a firm footing and the tools to achieve and sustain wellness in a way that was out of reach before. Just as a person with a chronic illness like diabetes cannot stop taking their insulin and hope to stay healthy without it, while in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD), you need to stay vigilant regarding your sobriety.
Signs of a Relapse
Relapse typically does not happen all at once or come out of the blue. Instead, according to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, there are stages that bring you from being sober to defaulting back to using drugs or alcohol and relapsing. The ability to recognize these stages before they progress to that point and utilizing coping skills you learned in treatment can help you stay on track.
The first stage actually does not have much to do with drugs or alcohol at all. It is known as emotional relapse, and it involves a decline in general mental wellness. While experiencing an emotional relapse, you might stop taking care of your basic needs, like eating enough nutritious foods, sleeping enough, and bathing regularly.
During this period, you might start to withdraw from your support systems and keep all of your emotions hidden. A return of anxiety and depression can make staying sober more difficult because drugs and alcohol might have once been a way of seeking temporary relief from these uncomfortable mental states. This is why working with a provider who can address these co-occurring disorders can set you up for long-term success.
The second stage occurs when you start contemplating how using drugs and alcohol again might help you feel better. You might make excuses for why this is a good reason to drink again. You might promise that it will only be this one time. Perhaps you look back on your active addiction and see it as not being all that bad.
It is possible that you will choose another substance over the one you were addicted to, so it will not be like going back to your old habits. No matter how you try to reconcile it, this stage of mental relapse is another step closer to using substances once again.
The third stage is physical relapse, and this is when you choose to actually use drugs or alcohol. Physical relapse is often secretive, where you plan a time where no one will catch you because you know that you should not be engaging in this behavior but feel it necessary. This might be just one drink, but it often will lead to more intense and frequent emotional and mental relapses that increase the risk of further physical relapses. A physical relapse could also lead to losing control once more and needing to essentially start over.
Recovering From a Relapse
Knowing the signs and stages of relapse and developing and practicing coping strategies can be an effective form of protection against it happening. Even the most prepared people might find themselves relapsing, despite their best efforts. You may have heard of the phrase “recovery is not linear.” There are many peaks and valleys in recovery, times where it is easy or at least manageable, and other times where it feels impossible. Those valleys do not mean that the peaks are no longer obtainable or that you are stuck at the bottom now. It is all part of the process, and knowing how to recover when prevention did not work is a necessary skill.
Relapse is a sign that you might need extra support. The most important thing to do in this scenario is to be honest with your support system, especially your treatment providers. They might need to adjust some aspects of your care, increase the frequency of therapy visits, explore new coping strategies and reinforce old ones, and utilize resources such as sober monitoring if that is not already part of your treatment plan.
Taking care of your basic physical and emotional needs can help prevent relapse, and continuing to engage with your loved ones can keep you from becoming isolated and vulnerable.
Relapsing does not mean that you should give up on sobriety. There are many options to get you back on track with your treatment and recovery goals. Family-Centered Services is dedicated to your long-term recovery and wellness from the day you start treatment. Our licensed clinicians will work with you and your family to assess your needs and develop a treatment plan unique to your situation. Individual and family therapy will help you identify your triggers, regulate your emotions, and practice coping strategies that can keep you sober. Our Family Recovery Program will help repair any strained relationships within your family and help your loved ones support you through this journey. Our sober accountability services will help support your continued sobriety and guide you through the periods where you are at the greatest risk of relapse. To learn more about our comprehensive and evidence-backed services, call us today at (509) 991-5822.