Relapse: A Process, Not An Event
The stages of relapse generally are similar for most addicts. Relapse is an unfortunate part of the story for some recovering addicts and alcoholics. There’s a misconception that relapse is the exact moment someone picks up a drink or a drug.
While this is the general definition of relapse, for most, there are several stages of relapse that happen before someone drinks or uses drugs.
What Are The Stages of Relapse?
Part of preventing relapse means being aware of each stage. There are several different theories about the stages of relapse, but they all have some elements in common. For most, the stages of relapse begin with a trigger. Triggers are events, people, memories, or objects that cause cravings. These are different for everyone. Triggers can be the death of someone close, a break-up, a job loss, or even hearing an old song that reminds someone of their drinking days. For someone with a strong foundation in recovery, triggers are manageable. However, for others, they can kickstart the stages of relapse.
Different Types and Stages of Relapse
Researchers across the country have spent many hours studying what happens before a relapse. For example, Terence Gorski identified eleven stages of relapse before someone uses drugs. As a result, many professionals still use this theory today. The primary stages of relapse fall into three significant categories.
These categories are:
Emotional Relapse: This happens when someone isn’t able to manage difficult emotions, like grief or frustration. Emotional relapse can also mean mood swings, intense anger, and loneliness. Additionally, it often leads to a shift in thinking and behavior.
Mental Relapse: This is the stage at which someone starts to think seriously about relapsing. Generally, a mental relapse means obsessing about drugs, irrational thinking, and finding reasons to justify a “slip.”
Behavioral Relapse: This includes physically using a drink or a drug. But before that happens, behavioral relapse means engaging in high-risk activities, such as being around drugs, starting to keep secrets and “sneaking around,” and preparing to use.
Other warning signs of relapse might be:
- Not calling your sponsor or attending meetings
- Obsessive behaviors like overeating or overspending
- Spending time with former “using friends”
- Thinking “I’ve got this” and being unwilling to hear suggestions
- Neglecting self-care
- Abusing or not taking medications
- Missing important commitments
If you see any of these signs, it’s essential to talk to someone who can help as soon as possible.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we focus on helping patients with relapse prevention skills. We also understand that for some, relapse is a part of the story. One of the significant challenges for many addicts and alcoholics is admitting that they need help. As a result, we maintain a judgment-free and compassionate environment. So if you need help with relapse prevention, or you have just suffered a relapse, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our staff today.