Josh Chandler | April 22, 2021

Understanding the Stages of Relapse

Understanding the Three Stages of Relapse Can Help You Stay Sober During Difficult Times

For those who have never suffered from addiction, it is easy to think that graduating from rehab entails the end of the road, but those who have struggled with substance use disorder know that it is only the beginning. Now that you are out of rehab and back home, it is vital to recognize the dangers that the various stages of relapse present so you can take action before it is too late.

No matter how committed you are to your recovery, it is always important to be vigilant. Learning to recognize the early warning signs can make all the difference, and you can start by learning about the three stages of relapse.

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What Is a Relapse?

Recovery can be a delicate balance, and it only takes a slight push to send it off track. As you leave residential rehab and get ready to reclaim your life, you need to recognize the signs of a looming relapse before it is too late.

Relapse happens when someone in recovery returns to their old ways, indulging in alcohol or drugs instead of staying clean. Relapse is a common danger for recovering addicts, especially those who are fresh out of rehab.

What Are the Three Stages of Relapse?

Relapse is not a single event; instead, it happens in stages, with each stage building on and feeding off the one that came before. As you move forward with your recovery and begin to live your life again, it is essential to recognize and prepare for the three stages of relapse. Those three stages of relapse are:

  1. Emotional relapse – The first stage of relapse is emotional in nature, and it is important to recognize these early warning signs. During this initial stage, you may experience emotional instability, mood swings, insomnia, and poor eating habits.
  2. Mental relapse – The brain plays a huge role in your recovery and any relapse. Stage two of relapse involves your brain and mental state. You may experience symptoms that include cravings, surrounding yourself with non-sober friends, and fantasizing about using drugs and alcohol.
  3. Physical relapse – During this third and final stage of relapse, all the things you imagined in the first two stages are made real. Physical relapse involves a return to old patterns of drug and alcohol usage, and making it to this stage means the need for a return to treatment.

Steps to Prevent Relapse

Suffering a relapse is difficult, but it is not inevitable. Even if you have already gone through one or both of the initial stages, you can stop a pending relapse if you know which steps to take. If you feel a relapse coming on, these immediate steps could prevent you from taking that final step back into drug or alcohol use:

  • Reach out to your sponsor – If you have been attending 12-step meetings, reach out to your mentor if you are worried about suffering a relapse. Talking to someone at this stage could make all the difference, so do not hesitate to make the call.
  • Engage in meditation and other forms of mindfulness – Traveling inside your mind at this stage can be very helpful, so fire up your meditation app, connect your biofeedback device or do whatever else you need to do to connect with the world inside your skull.
  • Talk to a counselor – Talking to a professional counselor when you are sad, tired, or isolated can help you avoid a relapse, so reach out and have a chat before it is too late.
  • Remember your coping skills – When you were in rehab and working on your recovery, you focused on building solid coping skills, and now is the time to break them out. Finding the proper coping mechanisms at this delicate stage could make all the difference in the success of your recovery.

What to Do if a Relapse Occurs

If you were undergoing treatment for heart disease, cancer, or diabetes and one form of therapy did not work, you would not simply give up. You would seek out other forms of treatment, from radiation and chemotherapy to dietary changes and exercise. Still, too many people in recovery view a temporary relapse through the lens of a permanent failure when it comes to addiction.

If you suffer a relapse, it is essential not to beat yourself up or feel like you have failed. The fact that your most recent drug or alcohol treatment did not succeed is not a reflection on you or a moral failing on your part – it is simply part of the process.

Should a relapse occur, it is important to reach out for help right away, so you can get back into treatment, learn additional coping skills and get on with living the best life you can. Contact the addiction treatment professionals at Muse Treatment in Los Angeles at (800) 426-1818 to discover how to manage the various stages of relapse.

Josh Chandler
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