How Does Relapse Work?

doctor with patient

For people in detox treatment and early sobriety, relapse is the number one thing to avoid. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates among recovering individuals range from 40 to 60 percent. This shows how common relapses happen and how difficult maintaining sobriety is on the journey to recovery. Understanding how relapses happen can help those in recovery identify triggers and risk factors when faced with this challenge.

What Are the Warning Signs of Relapse?

There are many warning signs of potential relapse before it happens. For example, if a recovering individual does not make sobriety a top priority, relapses are likely to happen. This commitment requires a lot of concentration and focus on the problem. People who suffer from co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety and depression might have to split their focus to reach other goals such as getting into a better mood which may cause them to ignore sobriety as the core of the mission of overall well-being.

Some people may have accepted treatment under the pressure from family and friends and may still be in a bit of denial. They may not actually want to quit drugs and alcohol for good and so are less than committed. Unless someone truly wants to quit for themselves, the risk of relapse is much higher.

Another warning sign of potential relapse is the absence of a strong support system. A newly sober person might become complacent in their improved state, thinking that they can continue improving on their own. This mentality underestimates the risks and challenges to sobriety. A support group adds a layer of accountability to their long-term recovery and they should not be without one.

What Are the Stages of Relapse?

A relapse often happens in stages. First, there is emotional relapse when a recovering individual feels the craving to use substances. This can happen if someone fails to cope with emotional downturns either by ignoring them or by not giving themselves space to process them healthily. They may have slid into old habits of bottling up feelings. Emotional energy will find an outlet, sooner or later.

What follows is the mental relapse stage when one begins to have doubts about sobriety. A part of them may want to remain sober, but another part is saying going back is okay. Thoughts that minimize the harmful effects of substances may re-emerge as a voice tries to entice them into seeing substances in a positive light.

The final stage of relapse is the physical manifestation of cravings. Left unchecked, the previous two phases could lead to a full-blown relapse, as one feels little to no control over using drugs and alcohol. They may feel shame or regret after this or they may have a false sense of security that they can use again and quit through sheer willpower. Self-deception and denial make a comeback too.

What Are the Most Common Triggers?

Common risk factors can come up at any time and when one doesn’t learn to effectively work through them, it can lead to a relapse. These include difficult feelings, stressful experiences, or continuing effects of trauma. Being back around a person or place that either caused negative emotions or that was where the recovering individual often used or drank can be extremely triggering. There are also social triggers, such as exposure to others using drugs and alcohol and peer pressure. All in all, triggers can be hidden behind stress and a compromised social circle. Triggers can be made more difficult to resist if one has a weakened support system that doesn’t help detect triggers.

How Do I Decrease the Risk of Relapse?

Many people who experience relapses tend to feel shame and regret. Some may want to give up altogether. These are normal reactions after relapse experiences. Although relapses are to be avoided as much as possible, relapsing does not equal failure. There are many ways to get back on the path to sobriety.

A wise mentality is to treat a relapse as a learning experience. It trains one to identify triggers and their root causes. Relapses teach you more about yourself, so don’t waste the learning opportunity. See it for what it is and figure out how to do better next time.

Although most treatment centers make an aftercare plan for patients, not all recovering individuals stick to it. They consider completing detox as the finishing line, but it is only the beginning. Learning to re-write daily routines and boundaries is only a launching pad for real-life practices. Once a recovering individual is back to their normal life, they must keep practicing self-care techniques and relationship skills so they can meet challenges like dysfunctional family dynamics and social isolation in healthy, balanced ways to mitigate relapse risk.

Sobriety should always be the core goal during post-treatment life. Having a group of family and friends who will provide compassionate support and strict discipline will help people in recovery stick to their goals. One should continue living out the healthy activities and practices they learned in treatment. They should not grow complacent or discontinue using their tools for recovery because triggers are everywhere, but can be overcome.

Are you struggling with the risk of relapse after addiction recovery treatment? Have you already experienced a relapse and wonder if you can still recover? Relapses are real challenges for people who achieve sobriety but they are not the end of the world. There is always a way out. Since you have done it before, sobriety is still within reach. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we know how frustrating relapses and weeding out triggers can be and we have the expertise to help you get back on track. Upon completing detox treatment, our licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists provide you with an intervention plan in case relapses happen. Even you do experience relapse, there is always help. Our residential facility offers a range of treatments including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, and 12-step programs. You don’t have to feel defeated by relapses. We have the expertise to walk alongside you. Call us at (866) 906-3203