Understanding Relapse: Why it Happens and How to Prevent it

Other times, you follow all the rules of recovery for a long time, and you feel safe from relapsing. Then, you get bad news, and suddenly, you feel triggered. You go back to using or drinking as a way to cope with the unexpected. Suddenly, you are right back to where you were before you began recovery.

  • After all, a person who has relapsed after being in treatment is still in a much better place than they were before treatment.
  • The more stressful the times, the more important — even lifesaving — these habits become.
  • Because clients are not consciously thinking about using during this stage, denial is a big part of emotional relapse.
  • So, with continued therapy and support you should be able to build stronger defenses against common triggers.
  • You stay away from drugs and alcohol and avoid triggering situations.

You might struggle to get back on track because you feel that relapsing means that recovery and sobriety are not meant for you. After a relapse, you can get back on track by realizing that relapsing is just a setback in your addiction recovery. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 88, 325–332. alcoholism and the blame cycle Relaxing and taking time to do things that make you happy is another important part of self-care. Acknowledge that recovery is a difficult process and you’re doing the best you can. When the urge to use hits, remind yourself why you started down the path to recovery in the first place.

During a relapse, a person returns to using a substance. A single use might cause a person to feel unmotivated, guilty, or ashamed of their actions. It can also result in intense cravings that then continue to further use. After a relapse, getting back on track as soon as possible is important.

Reasons Why Someone May Relapse

They are embarrassed to mention that they still have occasional cravings or that they are no longer sure if they had an addiction. For example, someone trying to control their drinking, who had been drinking according to relapse could result in a session of binge drinking. For a shopaholic trying to follow a spending plan, a relapse could be going on a shopping spree.

how to stop relapsing

So, try journaling, meditating, or even praying when you are feeling negative. Find a healthy way to release your negativity and boost your mood. An addictions specialist or another mental health professional can help you develop additional coping strategies. People who struggle with addiction need effective ways of tolerating, managing, and making sense of the negative feelings encountered in daily life. Alcohol, drugs, or addictive behaviors used to provide temporary relief from those feelings, but you can’t rely on them anymore. Believing in something bigger than yourself is excellent insurance against a life wasted in bad feelings and mindless activities.

It is often said that recovering individuals are as sick as their secrets. One of the challenges of therapy is to help clients practice telling the truth and practice admitting when they have misspoken and quickly correcting it. There are many risks to recovery at this stage, including physical cravings, do i have a drinking problem poor self-care, wanting to use just one more time, and struggling with whether one has an addiction. Clients are often eager to make big external changes in early recovery, such as changing jobs or ending a relationship. One of the important tasks of therapy is to help individuals redefine fun.

What Is A Physical Relapse?

Or maybe you have been sober for years before relapsing. Withdrawal symptoms from substance or alcohol abuse can vary. Your detox after relapse depends on how long your relapse has occurred and how much you used.

Clinical experience has shown that this stage usually starts 3 to 5 years after individuals have stopped using drugs or alcohol and is a lifetime path. Relapse prevention planning is often part of addiction treatment therapy. The therapist may work with the client to identify situations that could potentially lead to relapse. The client and therapist will then devise ways to deal with these situations in ways that don’t involve substance abuse. Ultimately, when these situations arise in the real world, the client will be equipped with the tools to deal with them effectively.

Following these healthy habits will help you feel better and more in control of your life. Relapse means going back to using after you’ve been abstinent for some time. It’s an ever-present threat when you’re trying to recover. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 40 to 60 percent of people who were once addicted to drugs will eventually relapse. Often, it may be a combination of several things that causes someone to relapse.

how to stop relapsing

Learning to recognize triggers, getting help from a counselor, and building a support network are all useful tools in preventing a relapse. Do everything you can to protect yourself, but don’t beat yourself up if you do slip. Avoid going into situations alone where you are at high risk of relapse. You might be surprised how quickly your resolve and good intentions disappear once the party’s started.

Physical Relapse

The additive, multifactorial, unrelenting stress that the year 2020 has brought would challenge even a Zen master to keep his or her cool. During an emotional relapse, people are not taking care of themselves or doing the things that will help them stay sober. This includes not attending how drugs affect the brain support meetings and hiding emotions. The concept of mindfulness teaches individuals to become more self-aware and learn to “roll with” their cravings rather than fight them. Using mindfulness-based relapse prevention will help you have fewer cravings and increased awareness.

how to stop relapsing

Please reach out if you have questions about relapse or to learn about relapse prevention and treatment options that can help you get back on track. You can call our free, confidential, 24/7 helpline to speak to an admissions navigator about your options and easily verify your insurance online. A relapse prevention plan should outline triggers and how to manage those triggers.

Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan

Many people find it beneficial to work with a counselor or therapist to identify triggers and learn healthy ways to react and cope. When individuals continue to refer to their using days as “fun,” they continue to downplay the negative consequences of addiction. Expectancy theory has shown that when people expect to have fun, they usually do, and when they expect that something will not be fun, it usually isn’t . In the early stages of substance abuse, using is mostly a positive experience for those who are emotionally and genetically predisposed. Later, when using turns into a negative experience, they often continue to expect it to be positive. It is common to hear addicts talk about chasing the early highs they had.

Making a Relapse Prevention Plan

When your stress level is lower, you’ll feel less likely to use again. During a physical relapse, someone slips and uses once again. For some people, this is enough to get back on track, but for others, it’s the catalyst that reignites their addiction. For example, a question many people have is what type of treatment plan is available for someone who relapses.

How can relapse be prevented?

A setback can be any behavior that moves an individual closer to physical relapse. Some examples of setbacks are not setting healthy boundaries, not asking for help, not avoiding high-risk situations, and not practicing self-care. A setback does not have to end in relapse to be worthy of discussion in therapy.

Part of relapse prevention involves rehearsing these situations and developing healthy exit strategies. Clinical experience has shown that occasional thoughts of using need to be normalized in therapy. They do not mean the individual will relapse or that they are doing a poor job of recovery.

When you are helping other people, it is much harder to focus on and wallow in your own misery. While I’m too lazy to actually write this out anymore, I do make a mental list every morning, and it grounds me in the fact that there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Relay is a digital support group app that matches you to a team of peers to stay connected and accountable.

You and your family members can work on relapse prevention during your treatment by focusing on your discharge planning while you are in a treatment center. Sometimes, you can intervene in a relapse before things get out of control. Depending on what stage of relapse you are in, you can get help before finding yourself dealing with drug or alcohol addiction again. You might stop going to support groups or stop making time for self-care. You feel like you are “cured” of your substance use disorder.

John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health . Verywell Mind’s content is for informational and educational purposes only. Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Stop making “but I have so much to keep up with” excuses, and get your 7­–9 hours of sleep every night.