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For individuals on the journey to recovery, understanding the stages of relapse is crucial in maintaining lasting sobriety. Relapse is a common and normal part of the recovery process. Rather than fearing or feeling ashamed of relapse, it is important to recognize it as an opportunity for growth and learning.
In this blog, we will delve into the three stages of relapse: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. By gaining insights into stages of relapse and learning effective strategies to prevent relapse, we aim to empower individuals to pursue a healthier, substance-free life.
Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT
Relapse refers to the return or recurrence of a behavior or condition, often after a period of improvement or recovery. In the context of addiction, relapse specifically refers to the recurrence of substance use after a period of abstinence or successful treatment. It is a common and challenging aspect of the recovery process.
Relapse does not mean that the individual has failed in their recovery; rather, it highlights the chronic and complex nature of addiction. It is important to view relapse as an opportunity for learning and adjustment in the ongoing journey of recovery.
Key points about relapse include:
Common in Addiction:
Triggers and Warning Signs:
Relapses can involve a variety of behaviors or substances depending on the nature of the addiction. Here are common scenarios and substances associated with relapses in different types of addiction:
**1. Substance Use Disorders:
**2. Nicotine Addiction:
**3. Behavioral Addictions:
**4. Process Addictions:
**5. Co-occurring Disorders:
**6. Self-Harming Behaviors:
**7. Other Compulsive Behaviors:
**8. Poly-Substance Use:
**9. Environmental Triggers:
It’s important to note that the specific behaviors or substances involved in relapses can vary widely based on individual circumstances, the type of addiction, and the underlying factors contributing to the addiction. Addressing relapse often requires a comprehensive and individualized approach that may include counseling, support groups, medication-assisted treatment, and ongoing aftercare planning.
Emotional relapse is the initial phase of the relapse process. During this stage, individuals are not actively contemplating using drugs or alcohol. However, their emotions and behaviors may set them up for future relapse.
Some noticeable symptoms of emotional relapse are:
Engaging in self-reflection by asking certain questions to prevent getting trapped in the first stage of relapse is beneficial. Journaling can serve as an excellent starting point. Consider these self-reflection questions:
Recognizing that you are experiencing emotional relapse and making immediate behavioral changes are crucial for preventing relapse. If you notice any signs of the first stage of relapse, it’s better to discuss it with the professionals so that they can make changes in your treatment for addiction. This will help you stop at the first stage of relapse. Also, note that if tension builds, the risk of transitioning to stage 2—mental relapse—becomes greater.
When individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) neglect self-care and remain in a state of emotional relapse for extended periods, they start feeling uncomfortable with themselves. This discomfort leads to restlessness, irritability, and discontent. These emotions build up tension, triggering thoughts of using drugs or alcohol as an escape.
Mental relapse becomes a battle within the mind, with one side yearning to eliminate negative emotions through substance use while the other side resists relapse. Resisting relapse becomes increasingly challenging as the individual becomes more absorbed in this obsessive mental state.
Signs of Mental Relapse Include:
During the mental relapse stage, individuals may engage in bargaining. This can involve looking for excuses to drink or use drugs again or seeking ways to control their substance use. They may feel they deserve to drink or use drugs to celebrate occasions like holidays or weddings or because they are attending a friend’s gathering.
Individuals may progress to physical relapse if mental and emotional relapse symptoms are not acknowledged and addressed promptly. This stage involves the actual act of using drugs or alcohol. It is crucial to seek help immediately upon recognizing physical relapse to prevent further entrenchment in the destructive cycle of addiction.
To avoid relapse, it is important to be aware of triggers that may lead to a return to harmful addictive behavior. Some common triggers include:
These are people or groups of people associated with drinking or drug use. They may be referred to as drink buddies or drug buddies. Encountering such individuals can act as a social trigger and create cravings for alcohol or drugs.
Drug use and heavy drinking often have deep emotional roots. Whether it’s celebrating joy or self-medicating to numb pain or sadness, these emotions often lead to cravings. Emotional triggers can be challenging to overcome.
Certain times of the day, seasons, significant events, or holidays can act as pattern triggers and trigger cravings for alcohol or drugs.
Social, emotional, and pattern triggers are psychologically conditioned. Withdrawal triggers, on the other hand, are biological responses to the absence of substances in the body. These triggers commonly occur in the first few weeks of recovery as the body adjusts to the absence of the substance.
While triggers can sometimes occur randomly, they are typically connected to past drinking or drug abuse.
The most potent triggers often span multiple categories. For example, if someone used to drink heavily every Christmas with their family, they may face triggers across all the mentioned categories, leading to strong cravings.
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges or substance abuse, reach out to California Prime Recovery today. Our team of compassionate professionals is here to support your journey towards lasting well-being. Give us a call at 866-208-2390