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Avoiding Relapse After Drug Rehab


Relapse after drug rehab is a common occurrence. The most commonly-accepted definition of sobriety is to remain free from any mood or mind-altering substances. For some people, it takes many tries and years of addiction treatment to attain long-term recovery. Unfortunately, relapse can be a part of this process – but it does not have to be.

Generally, relapse is often thought of as an event when an addict or alcoholic picks up a drink or a drug after remaining abstinent for a period. While relapse includes this piece of the puzzle, it is more often a process than a single event. 

For most people in recovery, suddenly drinking or using out of nowhere is unlikely. Thus, relapsing after drug rehab is usually the result of a long process involving a change in thoughts, high-risk behaviors, and triggering events. Most people in recovery don’t relapse when they are mentally and emotionally stable. Instead, it happens after weeks, months, or even years of regression. Thus to prevent relapse, it’s essential to recognize these warning signs while at a drug treatment center.

Preventing Alcohol Relapse After Treatment

So, how does the relapse process work? For most, it starts with a change in thinking patterns or triggers from an emotional issue. Generally, shifts in thinking can be an indication that someone is in this phase of the relapse process. Examples include cognitive distortions or intrusive thoughts. For instance, if someone in recovery notices that they are experiencing extremes black-and-white thinking such as, “I missed a meeting; I’m a failure,” it can be a sign of mental relapse. Emotional triggers and intrusive thoughts can also be elements of this shift. For example, experiencing frequent crying spells and feelings of hopelessness are a severe warning sign. Relapse after drug rehab occurs when intense cravings, or even fleeting thoughts of drinking and using return.

At this point in the relapse process, someone’s actions may shift back into a cynical and maladaptive direction. They could start missing meetings, failing to call their sponsor regularly, or begin lying about small aspects of their day. Other examples may include risk-taking behavior, such as hanging out with people who drink alcohol or use drugs or spending time at bars. Everyone’s recovery is different, and so is each relapse process. The vital thing to watch out for is drastic changes in behavior or mood that could indicate that someone is on the road to relapse after drug rehab.

Warning Signs Of A Relapse

  • Rapid or frequent mood swings with no underlying medical/psychological cause
  • Engaging in behavioral addictions, like pathological gambling, shopping, or sex
  • Abusing medications or refusing to take them as prescribed
  • Not following through with commitments or disengaging from a usual routine
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Lying, manipulating, isolating, or experiencing feelings of denial such as, “I can drink because alcohol wasn’t my drug of choice.”

Detox After Relapse

If you experience a relapse after drug rehab and can not stop using, admission into a detox program can help. If you experience withdrawal symptoms after using illicit drugs or consuming alcohol, then a medical detox stay will help get you back on track. After getting help for heroin addiction, alcohol addiction, marijuana addiction, cocaine addiction, or valium addiction, drug rehab may have benefits.

Generally, to prevent relapse after drug rehab, having a recovery routine is essential. Meetings, therapy sessions, spiritual practices, and self-care all offer structure, an outlet for emotions, and opportunities for fun in sobriety and an additional layer of accountability. Many other aspects of recovery are vital to preventing relapse.

Medication compliance, for example, can help treat symptoms of co-occurring disorders such as depression. Make sure that every aspect of your health – physical, mental, and emotional – is key to avoiding relapse or the urge to self-medicate.

Ultimately, preventing relapse after drug rehab depends on a comprehensive plan and a commitment to sobriety through anything life throws your way. Recognizing the signs early and relying on a healthy routine and coping skills can mean the difference between sobriety and the path to relapse.

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