After 13 years of sobriety, you find yourself at the mercy of the needle. All of your former relapse prevention strategies haven’t worked and you’re down to your last straw. After refusing cravings to drink or use drugs, you believed that relapse was something in the past.

Addiction relapse can be a challenging time for recovering individuals by reintroducing high-risk situations. The stigma of addiction still resonates in our societies and building that self-discipline demands compassion. The stigma of addiction recovery is one of the aspects that prevent individuals from receiving care.

Addiction is a disease that manipulates the reward centers of the brain. Our brains are hardwired to repeat pleasurable behaviors in order to survive. Addictive substances can make it difficult to experience life without the presence of the substance in the body.

Depending on the substance, withdrawal symptoms can be the difference between recovery and the downward spiral of addiction. Relapse prevention is the gateway to educating patients to take control.

Unfortunately, addiction relapse is a common occurrence in long-term addiction recovery. Recovering individuals can have increased anxiety over the fear of relapsing. Relapse can be defined as a return to substance use after a period of abstinence. 

Relapse is not an indication of moral failure on your part. Self-care may be the key to your relapse prevention in long-term recovery. Addiction is a complex disorder that has a range of influences to drink or use drugs. The global pandemic has increased substance use trends all over. To prioritize behavioral health care services is to invest in humanity.

How Can The Risk Of Relapse Be Prevented?

Relapse prevention requires daily efforts to recognize your substance use has common triggers. Self-care through activity and honesty can present positive benefits. Triggers can come in many different forms; from people, places, or things. Don’t be afraid to get help.

The risk of addiction relapse can manifest through different stages. Relapse affects roughly 40-60% of people struggling with a substance use disorder. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can occur after detox has been completed.

Emotional Relapse Phase

The emotional phase of relapse is usually the first phase. You may begin to withdraw from your emotions as the transition into ordinary life can require adjustments. After going through the initial treatment center, you may not feel up to new changes. Shame and guilt are common themes in addiction recovery. You could begin to skip support meetings. 

At the emotional relapse stage, a person struggling with substance abuse may not be conscious of this emotional gray period. You might find it difficult to control certain negative emotions, especially if triggered by events or circumstances such as finding a job or making amends. 

Anxiety, mood swings, and defensiveness can erupt deep inside during the emotional relapse stage. It’s vital to practice compassion with yourself. Be transparent about these feelings with someone you trust.

Mental Relapse Phase

The mental phase of relapse would be the next after the emotional phase. Typically, a person is aware of the emotional withdrawal from recovery. At this point of mental relapse, you may find yourself thinking or fantasizing about use. 

The euphoric feeling from the past could inspire you to linger around places where you used to get high or contact friends who use substances. This can increase your chances of witnessing high-risk situations.

Mental relapse can be a dangerous threshold for those in a vulnerable state. Lying is practiced often, along with thinking about relapse. The emotional phase of relapse has swarmed you and now it’s a matter of getting closer to using drugs. It’s important for your support system to recognize these signs because your chances of relapse have increased.

If you find yourself at the mental relapse phase, it’s recommended that you wait at least 15-30 minutes so the urges reduce. Distracting yourself could help by reaching out to a friend or someone you can trust. The tension of use can make you irritable, so prioritize relaxation techniques to handle sobriety one day at a time.

Physical Relapse Phase

The physical phase of relapse is recognized for its ultimate result of use. At this stage, a person is already seeking the substance or behavior.  It becomes hard to focus now that you’ve been emotionally and mentally involved.

You could have already snagged some heroin for “one last use”. This can present a high risk for fatal overdose, especially when a recovering individual believes their tolerance will match the time before sobriety. High-risk situations will only plunge you deeper into using drugs.

How Do You Prevent Relapse Triggers?

Addiction does not have a one-size-fits-all cure. Self-care is a strong source of strength against relapse. Changing your behavior overnight is not realistic; the continuum of care for addiction recovery is designed to be resourceful. For example, a support group can give you insights to better prepare yourself against drug use. Get help if you feel as though you can use honest support.

You must take care of yourself to prepare for the unexpected. Taking care of yourself will only benefit you towards preventing a relapse. Make sure to prioritize your health through diet, quality sleep, exercise, and activities. 

Keep the mind occupied during this difficult period. Your body might feel like a chaotic vessel that needs to be tamed. Yoga and meditation have many recorded health benefits by promoting mind-body connectivity. 

Consistent research has shown that alcohol and opioids have the highest rates of relapse. This can be attributed to their potent addictive qualities on the body. The severe withdrawal symptoms of both of these substances can prompt relapse, or worse, death if untreated. Stimulants and benzodiazepines addiction are notable for their high rates of relapse.

If a loved one has relapsed, it’s crucial to remain calm but deliberate in how you handle the situation. The person can be in a vulnerable state and it’s important to remind them you’re there for them. The person must become self-aware of their decision-making processes in order to remain sober for relapse prevention.

  • Determine their intoxication and remove them from any potential risks. 
  • Remove the person, if possible, from the environment influencing their substance use. 
  • Reach out to their counselors or therapists that are overseeing their case. 
  • Contacting your support system will help guide the next course of action. 
  • Remind them this is a learning moment, not the end of their healing journey.

What Are Some Relapse Triggers?

Relapse triggers will depend on the person and what specific coping mechanisms they use. You must become self-aware of these common triggers, despite everything. Coming back into normal life after addiction treatment presents many obstacles. The more self-awareness you build towards this chronic disease, the better for relapse prevention.

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Interpersonal issues
  • Financial issues
  • Issues at school or work
  • Specific smells or sights of substances

What Is A Relapse Prevention Plan For Substance Abuse?

A relapse prevention plan can be described as a series of guidelines and scenarios to guide you through the risk of substance use. A relapse prevention plan can be created with you and your counselor. Through psychotherapy you’ve received at a treatment center, you’ll have a chance to become self-aware of your responses to relapse prevention techniques.

A relapse prevention plan can be designed for your subtleties.

  • Go through your substance abuse history as a relapse prevention technique. Ask yourself if there was a specific time or period when you used substances the most. Did you relapse before?
  • List any warning signs of relapse. Share this list with your treatment team or support system to hold you accountable.
  • Establish a specific action plan for a relapse prevention technique. Have an idea who you could contact to help support or when to go to a meeting. Details are going to help you iron out this plan.
  • Include the specific triggers that influence you to use substances.
  • Include a list of cravings and who to contact when you feel them becoming overwhelming.
  • Think about what preventive tools you have access to, such as a support group or exercising.

What Is Chronic Relapse?

Chronic relapses are highly dangerous for those in recovery. Chronic relapsing is an indication that the patient is not fully receiving the care they need. Despite relapse prevention techniques, chronic relapse typically occurs when a patient has less than 90 days of addiction treatment. On average, a patient who remains clean for about 2 years has a higher likelihood of maintaining sobriety in the long term.

Chronic relapse can present itself in a couple of ways:

  • Lack of preparation for the real world
  • Failing to ask the deeper questions
  • Not recognizing your triggers and cravings
  • Lack of direction or motivation to remain sober
  • Incomplete addiction treatment
  • A decline in mental health

Co-occurring disorders are a common element in substance abuse, which is when a person has a mental health and substance abuse disorder. Chronic relapse can leave a person vulnerable to a fatal overdose. After a period of sobriety, the body could have adjusted without addictive substances. 

The initial shock of the substance in the body can introduce a more potent effect due to the reduced tolerance. At this stage, it can’t be stressed enough that you should get help.

What Are Treatment Options For Chronic Relapse?

Chronic relapse could be devastating to the family or loved ones of the individual. They may not understand why their loved one can’t muster the strength to remain sober. Inpatient treatment centers or sober living options may be considered for those with this condition. With a distraction-free environment, you’ll have the opportunity to reassess a healthy alternative for yourself. 

Psychotherapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) are impressive resources for addiction treatment programs. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy challenges the relationship between your thoughts and behaviors. The patient will undergo these therapies to guide the mental processes away from these compulsive behaviors.

Medical detox for drug or alcohol use will likely be the first stage of your recovery. Holistic addiction treatment programs may be an alternative that suits you. Programs with this practice can be characterized as treating the whole patient. Holistic addiction therapy is recognized as a complementary form of treatment, due to the inconclusive results of these forms of therapy. 

To strengthen relapse prevention techniques, some patients may not feel comfortable taking medications to treat their addiction, opting for alternative medicines or treatments. Holistic approaches such as massage therapy and nutritional therapy can present benefits to patients struggling with substance use disorders, particularly for drug or alcohol use. It should be noted that holistic addiction therapies have been linked to higher satisfaction rates among patients.

The Importance Of Hobbies For Addiction Treatment

Hobbies play a fundamental role in relapse prevention. Boredom and stress impact a person’s schedule, leaving an opportunity for substance use. The conflict within interpersonal relationships can cause a recovering individual to fall back on coping mechanisms. Hobbies and extracurricular activities are taught in addiction treatment programs. 

Healthy coping mechanisms are key highlights for addiction treatment programs. Team sports such as basketball can encourage teamwork and building relationships with others. Finding a core group of people to connect with outside of addiction can foster social benefits. The exercise can improve the physical conditions of the recovering individual, which outlasts the cravings of substance use.

Hobbies such as art and music can introduce the idea of expression through different mediums. People often use substances to cope with their trauma, fit in with others, and or to pass the time. Hobbies can inspire self-confidence to discover new skills and experiences through thoughtful action.

Journaling is a significant outlet for those with a substance use disorder. Chronicling your past experiences can give you a window into what emotional processes influence your substance use. Some individuals could be operating out of pain, deep in their subconscious. Those with a chronic illness might find the liberty of not being judged through a neutral medium.

Self-esteem is a common element that is affected by substance use. Addiction can spread towards those you love, leaving you in an unrecognizable state. Hobbies and leisure activities are an opportunity for you to outline a healthier lifestyle. To enrich relapse prevention, hobbies can improve your sense of self, which can deflect negative thoughts and feelings you have about yourself.

Witness Your Rebirth at BRC Healthcare

Your addiction recovery should be tailored to your experience and history. Relapse can bring up a whirlwind of intense emotion and fear. For successful relapse prevention, it’s important to be transparent about your feelings to ensure that your underlying reasons don’t take over. 

BRC Healthcare is determined to be the support you need during this period. Addiction recovery resources are available for you or a loved one struggling with substance use disorders. Feel free to contact us today to channel your rebirth.