The thought of relapsing after putting forth so much hard work during addiction treatment is overwhelming. Unfortunately for some, relapse is all part of learning how to live sober while in the face of temptation. The real trouble comes when nothing is done to reinforce getting back on track after relapsing. In truth, most people don’t know what to do after relapsing, or what to say to someone who has relapsed. Most people don’t even know how to conduct relapse prevention in the first place.
Knowing what to do when you relapse makes recovering from that relapse much more likely. Knowing what to do when you relapse also helps prevent the temptations of life from taking too much of a hold on you.
Relapse recovery may take some time. Thus, one’s best bet is still to conduct relapse prevention. It’s important to remember that relapse doesn’t mean that addiction recovery is over though. What it does mean is that more work needs to be done to get to a place of relapse recovery.
Relapse Is More Common Than You’d Think
Addiction is a chronic disease. This means that there isn’t a known cure for it. Because maintaining sobriety is essential for managing the disease, relapsing is far more common than anyone would care to admit.
Staying sober in the face of a trigger is not always going to be an easy thing to do. However, the lessons learned at rehab do make a difference in being able to cope, resist urges, and conduct relapse prevention.
Relapse prevention is going to be the most important outlet at any point when triggers become too difficult to manage. Relapse recovery will also be an important outlet when it comes to addiction treatment.
Deciding what to do when you relapse should start with utilizing programs and therapies designed for drug addiction management. Even if it’s just the temptation of using drugs or alcohol, that’s enough to quickly spiral out of control. Unfortunately, it’s the stigma that surrounds relapsing that makes recovering from a relapse difficult.
What Causes Relapse?
The cause of relapse is going to be different for everyone. So is the stage of relapse that a person may find themselves facing. What’s necessary for relapse prevention or recovery will depend on several factors. Some of these include the individual, the trigger(s), how long, and how far into relapse they have gone.
Each stage of relapse may mean a different measure taken for relapse recovery. It’s also important to note that while actively abusing substances after being sober is considered relapsing, it isn’t the only qualifier.
Trauma Can Trigger Relapse
Sometimes what triggers relapse is the same unresolved issue that caused an individual to be using substances in the first place. This is especially true for those that have experienced trauma.
Trauma is a trigger that can also be triggered. What may seem completely unrelated to substance abuse, has the potential to trigger traumatic memories which can then lead to a person abusing substances to cope.
Because of how impactful trauma can be, it’s often difficult to know what to say to someone who has relapsed with unresolved trauma. Unfortunately, trauma in itself is not considered a psychological illness despite the fact that it can impact the development of one.
Untreated mental illness can have a devastating impact on upkeeping relapse prevention. Thus, mental illness symptoms should never be ignored.
Treating Co-Occurring Disorders for Relapse Prevention
An untreated and underlying mental illness significantly increases the chances of relapse after rehab. Because of the serious effects of co-occurring disorders, rehab will treat both illnesses simultaneously.
Simply focusing efforts on substance use disorders and neglecting mental illness has devastating effects on the individual and his or her sobriety. Thus, treating co-occurring disorders one at a time instead of simultaneously can trigger the emotional and physical need to self-medicate.
This in turn can derail one’s relapse prevention plan and recovery journey altogether. That’s why it’s so important to have a strong relapse prevention plan that can withstand the temptations and triggers that you might face.
Three Stages of Relapse
Although it’s obviously considered relapse once the physical act of substance abuse has occurred, relapse actually begins before a person physically starts using substances again. Relapse typically occurs in three stages. The stages of relapse to be on the lookout for are: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse.
The first stage of relapse, or the time when relapse truly begins, is usually when a person starts putting him or herself in situations that may trigger a relapse due to emotionally wanting to go back and live the way that he or she used to live. Thus, the first stage of relapse is emotional relapse.
The second stage of relapse is mental relapse. During this stage of relapse, individuals will start to think about using substances again and romanticize those past thoughts and experiences.
The third and final stage of relapsing is actually physically using substances again. Not every stage of relapse is obvious. Some thoughts or behaviors can seem like less of a threat to sobriety than it actually is. For example, an addict that has never abused alcohol may decide that drinking is a safe alternative to getting high.
Unfortunately, that is not the way the disease of addiction works, nor the brain of an addict. Instead, drinking while an addict often leads to abusing other, harder substances. Thus, drinking often leads to requiring more intensive rehab intervention. the second time around. The stages of relapse to be on the lookout for are: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse.
Spare Time Leaves More Room For Emotional Relapse
Filling spare time with healthy, fun, and productive activities fills in the blank areas where addictive thoughts can sneak in. The first stage of relapse can be subtle. It can happen by simply slacking off or putting less dedication into a recovery routine.
Sometimes this happens with overconfidence, and other times it’s caused by distraction or frustration. Although this can sometimes be difficult when emotions and feelings are triggering addictive thoughts, it needs to be addressed quickly.
Fortunately, there are therapy options that people can take advantage of. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially useful at managing unexpected sources of temptation.
Specialists are trained on what to say to someone who has relapsed by encouraging beneficial behaviors to replace substance abuse. Preventing relapse may not always be possible when unexpected emotions arise too quickly, so it’s important to be self-aware.
What to do when someone relapses because of traumatic memories, thoughts, or feelings can be confusing. There may not seem like a great way to go about it. However, when a slipup does occur, addressing it effectively is the key to relapse recovery and avoiding a future error.
Mental Relapse Paints Substance Abuse As Desirable
When a person begins to mentally relapse, it’s often because of the amount of success that person achieved while in recovery. In a way, having put distance between themselves and their substance abuse, many people begin to forget the devastation of the act.
It is when things begin to look up, that relapse recovery and relapse prevention becomes the most important to consider. Unless there is direct temptation and the addict is aware of impending relapse and gets help, the addict in mental relapse is usually in denial about it.
A person in mental relapse may begin to think or even voice untrue affirmations such as:
- “There is no way anyone will ever know…”
- “Just one last time while on vacation or to celebrate…”
- “Substance abuse was fun and I miss getting high or drunk…”
- “I quit once, I can do it again. Besides, one time won’t hurt…”
Having to figure out what to say to someone who has relapsed but is in denial about it is a tough dilemma. The best possible suggestion is to revisit one’s relapse prevention plan, attend an addiction support group meeting, or help oneself reconsider rehab therapy. Group therapy is especially effective for mental relapse recovery, providing support and peer experience to those in need.
Navigating Through And Around Physical Triggers
Most of the time, when coming up fast on a physical trigger, removing yourself from the situation alleviates temptation. During these times, an addict must rely on their lessons from rehab, and utilize coping skills until temptation passes. Some things may include a person, place, substance or paraphernalia, that can easily be maneuvered around and away from.
Having a solid plan of action in place to do so is developed during lessons and addiction therapies at rehab. They are designed to be helpful to prevent all stages of relapse if the work is continued into recovery. However, once the physical actions that lead up to acquiring and eventually using substances occur, physical relapse has occurred. Physical relapse is any act that enables the individual to resume substance abuse.
How Often Does Relapse Occur After Recovery?
Experiencing one or more types of relapse is common within the recovery community after rehab. Although some individuals are able to get back on track quickly, others fall into a pattern of chronic relapse. Even the strongest and most experienced can become prone to chronic relapse, and need to return to rehab for treatment. In fact, between 20- 40% of addicts will face relapse, within the first three years of living sober.
Chronic relapse recovery programs are designed with these shocking statistics in mind. Emotional dilemmas, such as the fear of relapse and failure, is often overlooked as a potential relapse trigger. For others who have never been through rehab and addiction, not knowing what to do when someone relapses is common. That’s what makes peer-oriented chronic relapse programs so important to relapse recovery.
Taking Action After Relapse
From the moment you realize that you are relapsing, it is time to take action. The sooner you are able to get back on track, the easier it will be. Especially those that are recently out of rehab may be confused as to what to do when you relapse. Too often individuals will be afraid or ashamed to ask for support while suffering in silence. Thus, substance abuse resumes.
Having a clear relapse prevention or relapse recovery plan of action makes it more comfortable to understand what to do when you relapse. Following each step one at a time keeps relapse recovery from becoming overwhelming. One of the first things that you can do is to reach out to someone you trust for help.
It’s important to designate that person in advance and make sure that he or she knows how to help you the way you need. Whether it’s being able to quickly leave a situation or getting registered in an addiction treatment program. Having support helps to keep people accountable and get back to sobriety as soon as possible.
Options For Dealing With Relapse
When wondering what to do when you relapse, or what kind of treatment you need, take inventory of your relapse. Depending on what types of relapse you are experiencing, this will determine what needs to happen next for relapse recovery.
Those experiencing emotional relapses may benefit from attending more regular meetings and sober social activities. Mental relapse may call for participation in therapy.
When it comes to physical relapse, those that have used drugs or alcohol may need more intensive treatment. Often this means drug detox will be the first line of treatment, followed by assessment and therapy.
Sometimes outpatient care will be enough, but it depends on the individual and what triggered his or her relapse. When relapse occurs because of a personal or environmental factor, residential treatment offers the most benefit.
Relapse Doesn’t Mean That Treatment Didn’t Work
Remember, relapsing doesn’t mean that treatment didn’t work, but it does mean that there is more work to be done. Treating an addiction, like any chronic illness, takes time and patience.
Inpatient rehab is the best option when treating chronic relapse. This is because it allows time to specifically focus on addiction and sobriety. For some, there will be a need for trial and error, and that’s because everyone, and their addictions, are different.
Again, relapse doesn’t mean that rehab didn’t work. Relapse does expose where the weaknesses were that needed more focusing on though.
Boredom and isolation are the leading culprits of relapse, following direct exposure and peer pressure. The scary part is that sometimes these things are out of our control.
To rule out temptation and toxic environments, especially for relapse recovery, inpatient rehab treatment is ideal. This allows time away from things that contribute to thoughts of substance abuse, until ready to again live sober.
However, being unsure about what to do when you relapse or why it happened, shows that routine adjustment is needed. The good news is that by getting help and facing relapse recovery, there is help along the way. It also means that relapse recovery is not impossible, and it is never too late.
Relapse Prevention and Relapse Recovery
Developing a quality aftercare program is always going to benefit anyone suffering from addiction after rehab. Having an outlet to manage overwhelming emotions is not only good for mental health, but also for relapse prevention.
Whether working regular meetings into your schedule or carving out time for stress relief, make a plan and perfect it. This will help you avoid distractions and temptations that cause people to relapse.
Another helpful way that a relapse prevention and recovery routine can deter relapse is by properly reacting to triggers of addiction. Knowing how to cope with temptation in beneficial ways, helps to stay the course in recovery.
This may mean working with a therapist or peer group, or even by carefully trying out new activities until you find what works for you. Just remember that deciding on what to do when you relapse sometimes requires asking for help and support.
Designing A Sober Reinforcing Support System
Sometimes those who love you don’t know what to say to someone who’s relapsed, so they keep to themselves. Being open and honest ensures that you have someone watching out for your best interests. An open line of communication goes a long way when uncomfortable or triggering situations arise.
Participating in family therapy during rehab can help individuals reconcile with loved ones that have been hurt by addiction. Substance abuse affects more than just the addict, but everyone that loves the addict as well too.
While working through issues, individuals in family therapy learn to rely on each other as a means to cope through treatment and recovery. Allow loved ones to be a part of taking action in the event of a vulnerable moment.
By discussing what to do when you relapse, should it be necessary, their support becomes relapse prevention. It is important to do the work to avoid relapse as best as you can. Then, what to do when you relapse can be much less stressful, backed by those who want you to succeed.
What To Do Next When You Relapse Matters
What to do after you relapse will impact the rest of your life. Realistically, there are only two options. One option is to allow addiction back into your life and allow it to take over. The only other option is to reach out to rehab and get help. It’s worth doing it the right way and approaching relapse recovery with the help of trained professionals.
From detox to treatment, and into recovery, the right kind of care makes a difference. To get started on the path toward a healthy sober life, connect with us today. Don’t let the fear of failure or relapse hold you back, because, in itself, relapse is not failure. Relapse, and working on recovery, is simply more motivation for figuring out how to stay sober.