How to Recognize the Stages and Signs of Relapse

Relapse is a major concern for people in recovery, especially in the early days when they are still transitioning to everyday life. While the risk for relapse is always there, it’s important to know that relapse is a process and not a single event. This means that by being aware of your potential triggers, you can get the extra support you need to prevent a relapse.

Let’s learn more about the stages of relapse and the red flags to pay attention.

Stages of Relapse

Even though relapse is common, and most people experience at least one during their recovery, it can be dangerous. When you haven’t used drugs and alcohol for a while, you lose your tolerance. Therefore, if you take the amount you were used to using, you could overdose. Even if you don’t overdose, a relapse means you have more work to do. You’ll have to get clean again and enter a new treatment program.

Here are the stages of relapse to pay attention to:

  • Emotional relapse is usually the first stage of relapse. In this stage, you’ll start to experience negative emotions like anger, moodiness and anxiety. A lot of times, this process starts because of a lack of support and poor self-care.
  • The second stage of the relapse process is mental relapse, which is where you start to feel a war within yourself. Should you use drugs and alcohol or not? You know it’s wrong to return to your old ways, but at the same time, they feel familiar.
  • Physical relapse is the last stage and occurs when you break your sobriety. Using just one time can put you at risk for overdose and continued abuse. Getting into treatment right away is vital to your recovery.

Potential Signs of Relapse

In the beginning stages of relapse, most people are unaware that they’re starting down this path. This is why it’s important to be aware of the potential signs of relapse, including negative emotions, a lack of a support system, skipping meetings and poor self-care. They may seem to be a normal part of the recovery process, but a negative attitude towards sobriety is an indication that you’re on your way to relapse.

Below are some signs to pay attention to.

  • Not going to your meetings. Isolating yourself from your peers is a strong predictor of relapse. You need to be fully engaged in your aftercare plan to protect your sobriety. If you start skipping out on your meetings, ask yourself why you’re separating.
  • Frequent feelings of boredom. Negative emotions can quickly lead to thoughts of using drugs and alcohol. If you start feeling lonely, depressed or bored in your recovery, this is a sign you need more support. An extended care program can provide you with the structure and support you need.
  • Not following your aftercare plan. Your continuing care plan provides guidelines on how you should be taking care of yourself. If you’re not following this plan, there may be a deeper problem that needs to be addressed. It’s imperative that you’re eating healthy, exercising daily and getting enough rest.
  • Cravings for drugs and alcohol. While cravings are normal in early recovery, it’s concerning when you start bargaining with yourself. Are you thinking that you can use once again and be done? Or that you can use safely? Don’t ignore these feelings – tell your family or sponsor.
  • Neglecting your responsibilities. Are you having trouble going to work or school? This could be because you’re falling out of your routine. Talk to a loved one or sponsor about your purpose in the world. You don’t want drugs and alcohol becoming the focus.

Seeking Treatment after Relapse

If you do relapse, know that it’s important to seek treatment right away. While relapse does not mean failure, it is serious. Each relapse presents the opportunity to fall back into using drugs and alcohol, which can lead to serious health problems, overdose or death. Fortunately, the treatment you receive now will build onto the treatment you have already received.

Multiple treatment options are available after a relapse. Some people choose to enter an inpatient treatment program where they can remove themselves from their distractions and focus on their recovery. Others get extra support from an outpatient rehab so they can continue working or going to school. Keep in mind that you must be sober before starting counseling.

A key part of relapse treatment is understanding the thought patterns and emotional responses that led to the relapse. By knowing your triggers, you can learn better ways to manage them. This may include learning to be more assertive about saying “no,” finding an outlet for stress, building a stronger support network and creating a new relapse plan.

Tips for Moving Forward after Relapse

Many people think that relapse means that treatment didn’t work, but this is not the case. Treatment always teaches recovering addicts new skills and ways of thinking. However, some people need several rounds of treatment before they can fully recover. The most important thing is how you respond to the relapse.

Here are some tips for moving forward after a relapse.

  • Change your perspective. Relapse is not a personal failure. It is a mistake that you can fix and learn from.
  • Spend time reflecting. Spend time thinking about what led to the relapse. Have you been making healthy choices? Spending time with the right people?
  • Build a support team. Make sure you have supportive people in your circle. This could be your sponsor, trusted family, members from your 12-step group or your counselor.
  • Seek treatment. A relapse signifies the need for more treatment. Choose an inpatient or outpatient program to continue your recovery.
  • Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. What matters is how you respond to the relapse and the positive changes you make to prevent another.
  • Develop healthy habits. Reassess your relapse prevention plan. What can you do differently? The main areas to focus on are healthy eating, exercise, sleep and stress prevention.

If you have relapsed or are concerned about relapse, contact Acceptance Recovery Center today. We have numerous programs that support people in all stages of recovery, including our Relapse Prevention Program. Call us today to learn more or to verify your insurance.