Josh Chandler | February 25, 2022

Going Back to Rehab: When Is it Time?

What To Do If You Relapse

Addiction is a chronic, life-long disease, and actively managing your substance use must happen every single day. When a person stops using a substance and moves into recovery, their addiction is not “gone” or “over”.  Being in recovery is like being in remission for other chronic diseases.  The risk of relapse becomes greater when returning to old habits, especially when faced with a stressful time, boredom, strong drug cravings, or other triggers like:

  • Doubt
  • Feeling misunderstood, judged, or attacked
  • Parties, holidays, or celebrations
  • Memories
  • Trying to relax at the end of a hard day
  • Feeling unsafe or a loss of control
  • Loneliness
  • Untreated mental illness, trauma, or abuse
  • Relationship or work problems

An important part of any drug rehab program is learning relapse prevention skills.  These take effort and constant vigilance to put into place sometimes.

Click here to call Muse Addiction Center today. Our staff is available 24/7 to provide answers and begin the admissions process. Call (800) 426-1818.

Understanding the Stages of Relapse

A relapse doesn’t necessarily happen all at once, it usually occurs in stages.  A relapse includes emotional, mental, and physical stages. These may happen in rapid succession or they may happen slowly over time.  Either way, knowing the stages of relapse can help you recognize the path you’re going down and stop it before you actually pick up and use drugs or alcohol again.  

The actor Colin Farrel has been open about his experience with alcoholism and recovery.  After being sober for twelve years, he recognized that he was feeling overwhelmed after filming back-to-back movies.  He checked himself into an Arizona treatment center even though he hadn’t started using yet.  Farrel recognized that he was in the early stages of relapse and decided to seek professional help before he went to “a bad place”. Read more about why Colin Farrell went back to rehab when he hadn’t started drinking again here:

Celebrities in Recovery: Why Colin Farrell Went Back to Rehab When He Hadn’t Started Drinking Again

Emotional Relapse

This stage occurs before you’ve even begun craving a drink or a drug.  This is when you experience challenging negative emotions like anxiety, irritability, or anger.  This is the stage when you should rely on the tools learned in recovery, healthy coping mechanisms, and strategies that help you cope with these difficult emotions without needing to turn to alcohol and drugs.  There are several specific signs of emotional relapse.  The most telling one is when self-care goes by the wayside.

Signs of emotional relapse include:

  • Not going to meetings or therapy
  • Isolating
  • Poor hygiene
  • Unhealthy changes in eating habits (binge eating or not eating)
  • Having an irregular sleep schedule
  • Generally abandoning your routine
Mental Relapse

During the mental phase of relapse, you start actually thinking about drinking or using drugs to relieve your emotional distress.  This can include anything from reminiscing about using to romanticizing and rationalizing using drugs and alcohol.

Some things people say to themselves in this stage are:

  • “Just one won’t hurt”
  • “If I could stop before I can stop again”
  • “I don’t have to tell anyone I’ve used, no one will know”

Having memories of your past substance use is actually expected in recovery.  But dwelling on those memories is a sign of trouble.  If you find yourself unable to let these memories surface, without fear or denial, and then let them pass, it may be time to reach out for help and even consider going back to rehab.

Physical Relapse

Physical relapse is when alcohol or drug use actually occurs.  This stage begins when a person starts actively taking steps to acquire drugs or alcohol like calling a dealer or driving to a liquor store.  Relapse is very difficult to stop in this stage which is why it’s so important to recognize the signs of relapse as early in the process as possible.  If you do reach the physical stage of relapse, and you do in fact start drinking or using drugs then it is important to go back to rehab as soon as possible.  Relapsing requires immediate help because each day it will be more difficult to seek help.

Relapsing can be extremely dangerous because your tolerance for drugs and alcohol will be diminished, meaning it will be much easier to accidentally overdose or experience other negative side effects from substance use. Do not binge-use drugs or alcohol before going back to rehab, as tempting as it may be to have one last intense experience, it is much too dangerous.

If you suspect you may be about to relapse or have begun using drugs and alcohol again after rehab, contact an addiction professional, counselor, your sponsor, or your doctor right away for guidance on what to do next. Although it may not be what you want to do, returning to any available treatment centers for substance use disorders may save your life.

Is It Normal to Have to Go Back to Rehab?

It is common to relapse, especially in the early stages of recovery. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that between 50 to 90 percent of people recovering from alcohol addiction relapse in the first four years after substance abuse treatment, and 40 to 60 percent of recovering drug addicts relapse in that time. That is a lot of people who are in the same boat as you. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but it takes very seriously.

An inpatient drug rehab center is the safest place for you to be if you have relapsed, as it will remove access to drugs, dealers, and enablers. You will not buy alcohol at the corner store or find drugs on the streets. You will immediately be in control over your addiction again, as you have taken a difficult but necessary step back towards recovery.

It is normal to return to drug and alcohol rehab. There are many reasons why people need to go back. It could be the case that you need to address an underlying mental illness that was previously undiagnosed or that specific treatments require a longer time to take effect. Perhaps you were not interested in the types of therapy you received or were feeling closed-off or unwilling to let go and participate fully.

What to Expect When Going Back to Rehab

When you go back to an addiction treatment program, you may want to try a new rehab facility or go into different types of treatment than before. Different approaches work for different individuals, and you may find the right therapeutic modality, spiritual outlook, or educational program to help you in your quest for long-term recovery.

Depending on the severity of your relapse, you may need to go through a medical detox program again. Stopping the use of a drug, especially if the relapse occurred over a sustained period, may cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, so ask your doctor if you are unsure whether professional detox is required.

Many people who have already spent time in rehab will return with a more dedicated and determined attitude. You will already have the foundations of many therapeutic processes, and it will be less intimidating than it was your first time. You know it is possible to stop substance misuse, and you know that you are strong enough to get through challenging times.

Understanding the Recovery Journey

Returning to rehab is not a failure. The recovery journey is a progressive and complex path, with many pitfalls, cycles, and stutters along the way. It is not a straight line, especially if mental health disorders are involved, and it is not fair to yourself to believe you can “succeed” or “fail.”

Managing addiction sometimes takes more than one stay in rehab, which is okay and part of the ongoing process. You can take many pathways, and everybody faces challenges and barriers, and you have the power to choose how to meet these difficult times. Doing your best is all you can do, and like many people say, taking each day as it comes without beating yourself up over minor mishaps is the best way to move forward when things are hard.

Will Rehab Be Effective More Than Once?

Yes, going to rehab more than once can be effective. Relapsing is just a sign that your first time in recovery was not 100% correct for your unique needs. You may require a more extended stay or an adjustment to the types of treatments you are receiving. Some ways to increase your chances of success include:

  • Be honest with yourself about what treatments worked and what didn’t, and why
  • Consider your recovery goals – are they specific enough?
  • Work on building your support system at home, whether it is loved ones, friends, support groups, online chat groups, or attending sober-friendly get-togethers
  • Tell people your goals, and ask them to hold you accountable for your actions
  • Work on positive thinking and believing that you will achieve positive results from rehab

Getting Back on Track at Muse Treatment Center

If you choose to return to rehab at Muse treatment center, our intake specialists will work with you to analyze which parts of your treatment worked for you and which did not, so we can better tailor your stay in our inpatient facility in a way that will help you most, setting you up for ongoing sobriety and long-term recovery.

Inpatient drug addiction and alcoholism treatment are recommended to those who have relapsed, as our residential rehab facility is safe, 100% drug- and alcohol-free, and will remove all the stress and triggers of your everyday life so you can focus on healing.

We offer an integrated combination of therapies and treatments that will help you heal your mind, body, and spirit as you rehabilitate, with evidence-based therapies, holistic treatments, and medical care given in a relaxing, friendly setting. Some treatments we provide include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a beneficial therapy for addiction, as it will help you change the way you think, behave, and respond to triggers.
  • Dual diagnosis treatments can help with co-occurring mental health issues like bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or depression
  • Individual therapy can help you find the underlying cause of your addiction
  • Mindfulness and meditation relaxation techniques are skills you can use on your own long into your recovery to reduce stress in a healthy way
  • Nutrition and physical fitness counseling will not only help you to regain your strength and bodily health, but exercise can also help you build a healthy routine and meet sober friends
  • Group therapy and process groups will help you meet peers, gain new problem-solving strategies, brainstorm, put your life into perspective and help you feel less alone
  • Family therapy can help you rebuild relationships and work through issues with your loved ones, and can also help them to understand what you are going through and how to best help you
  • Life skills and vocational skills training will teach you the skills you need to live independently, find and keep a good job, meet new people, keep a schedule, and move forward in life
  • Spirituality is an essential factor in many people’s recoveries, whether it be acknowledging a higher spirit through a 12-step program like alcoholics anonymous, knowing oneself better through introspection, art, and meditation, or forging a new connection with nature

Once you have completed your inpatient treatment, we will recommend an outpatient program that integrates more therapy, 12-step programs, and case management to help you remain sober and set you up for success in your future. Contact us at (800) 426-1818 today, whether you have a prescription drug addiction, a cocaine addiction, a marijuana addiction, a heroin addiction, or a meth addiction.

Drug Rehab,Recovery,Relapse,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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