According to one study, nearly 62% of people in alcohol and drug addiction recovery relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse emphasizes that many recovering addicts are likely to experience a decline because of the chronic nature of the disease. This concept is similar to other chronic diseases like diabetes. Fortunately, many recovering addicts receive the right tools and trigger control mechanisms to help them manage the fall and prevent long-term addict relapse.
Understanding the Types of Addict Relapse
Not all relapses occur the same way. Understanding the differences is critical to help an addict prevent relapse and to figure out the next steps. Whichever you’re experiencing, both need instant attention.
Traditional Relapse: This occurs when someone consciously goes back to drinking or drug use. For example, smoking marijuana to celebrate a year of sobriety.
Accidental Relapse: Also known as “free lapse,” this occurs when someone unintentionally uses drugs or alcohol while sober. An example of this is when an addict relapses by mistaking a non-alcoholic drink for an alcoholic beverage.
Despite the type of relapse you’re struggling with, you’ll likely experience what we know as the “relapse stages.“
Emotional Relapse Stage: Starts way before you pick up a drug or drink. During this stage, most people hide their feelings, start isolating themselves from others and neglect their self-care.
Mental Relapse Stage: By this phase, you’re holding conflicting feelings about sobriety. While you know being sober is beneficial, you’re still having intense cravings and even start thinking about ways to relapse. It’s common for those in this stage to glorify past substance abuse and also to start minimizing negative consequences.
Physical Relapse Stage: By now, you’re relapsing. Here is when you start using drugs again or go back to drinking. In this stage, you determine the type of relapse.
Beware of Common Relapse Risk Factors
Relapse is undoubtedly never a necessity, but it does happen to the best of us. For those in recovery, relapse can feel a lot like failure, setting them back many steps. Thus, one way to prevent relapse is by recognizing the different risk factors involved and how it can affect your recovery process.
- Exposure to triggers. Being around people drinking or other substance abusers can make it easier for an addict to relapse.
- Stress. Chronic stress levels can be challenging to manage even for those who have never struggled with substance abuse. Both alcohol and drugs can help ease stress symptoms, making long-term stress a dangerous trigger for many.
- Interpersonal problems. Family, relationship, and friend issues cause around 50% of relapse episodes.
- Peer pressure. It might seem silly, but peer pressure, even to prove that these substances no longer control you, can be quite emotional triggers to battle.
- Lack of support. Addiction recovery can be a lonely process; without a support system cheering you up, it can be common to relapse.
- Low self-efficacy. Having feelings of low self-efficacy or the doubt that you can continue your recovery on your own is very common and can add unneeded pressure.
- Positive emotions. While it might sound counterproductive, happy or positive emotions can lead to a desire to drink or use drugs.
What to Do Immediately After a Relapse?
Every action you take after a relapse is paramount in finding your way back to sobriety. While it’s easy to drown yourself in sorrows and punish yourself for your mistakes, these actions won’t take you anywhere. The moment you recognize you relapsed, act:
- Reach out for help. Talk to a friend, call your sponsor, or reach out to your therapist.
- Attend self-help groups. AA meetings of 12-steps group meetings happen all around you every day. So, walk into a meeting and share your story.
- Avoid triggers. Stay away from common triggers and also beware of hidden triggers that might make you question your sobriety.
- Set healthy boundaries. If you’re dealing with toxic relationships, you must set boundaries to protect yourself.
- Practice self-care. Even after a relapse, remember to eat healthy, exercise, and practice self-care to lift your spirit.
- Go over your relapse prevention plan. Revisit the strategies your therapist suggested if a relapse happened. Use these tips to avoid relapse.
5 Steps to Come Back from Addict Relapse
It is essential to recognize that a relapse back into drinking or using does not mean that treatment has failed. It’s all about making alterations to your coping mechanism and your recovery plan.
Holding onto your ego will only prevent you from bouncing back as quickly as you potentially could. If you fear what others will think of you, what others will say about you, and how others may treat you, you will only be hurting yourself in the long run.
Remember that this is YOUR recovery, and shying away from jumping right back in will only affect you. Hold your head up high, and inspire others with your bravery and determination.
Surround Yourself with Sober Friends
Don’t let shame and guilt push you away from those who genuinely love you. Get right back into your circle of friends. Let them know what happened and let them know you are serious about your recovery. Also, you recognize that you cannot do it alone.
Go Back to Basics
If you realize you’re struggling with a traditional relapse, you have to back in time. It might be helpful for you to attend meetings every day, call your sponsor daily, and redo your step program. While this might seem overdone, you must trace back your steps and recognize what didn’t work. Plus, you’ll get to work on your coping skills again.
Pick Up Your Commitment
Go to as many meetings as you can and pick up as many service commitments as you can muster. Also, do service outside of meetings as well – volunteer at outside organizations, give newcomers rides to the grocery store. Generally, do everything you can to stay involved and get outside of yourself. Practicing gratitude is an excellent way of staying humble and finding a purpose once again.
Bolster Your Faith
Generally, spirituality is often a vital component that those who relapse are missing. Pray and meditate daily. Also, explore new ways to foster a relationship with your higher power.
Find a way to reconnect with your faith and find your path. Because having faith in your recovery process will help you minimize the stepbacks and have the self-confidence to keep moving forward.
Do I Have to Go Back to Rehab?
Not necessarily. If you feel like you can’t stop, seeking professional help is ideal. Remember, a relapse doesn’t mean your treatment is a failure. It means you need to readjust the course of your recovery plan.
Many treatment centers offer relapse meetings to talk about your feelings and thoughts. You can always reach out to your former (or current) treatment providers, such as your therapist, psychiatrist, or medical doctor for advice.
The team at Lighthouse Recovery Institute is always available to provide support and point you in the right direction. Don’t let a relapse get the best of you, and let’s find the right path towards your sobriety.