In all aspects of life, growth is not linear. If we never failed at anything we did, we would never learn how to do and be better! When you are making a huge life change like getting clean from drugs and/or alcohol, some days will feel like a walk in the park while others feel like you’re trudging through wet concrete. Relapsing may leave you feeling defeated, ashamed, and regretful. Let those feelings be a reminder of the fact that you are still here, and you’ve still got some work to do. After you put in the necessary work, you’ll have a clear mind and be stronger than ever, ready to tackle anything life throws your way.

The best way to deal with a relapse is to identify your triggers, educate yourself on the other factors that cause relapse, and knowing the correct steps to take moving forward. We’ll discuss all of those things here.

Identify your relapse triggers

What triggers one person to relapse my not be the same for another person. It’s important to know what your personal triggers are so that you can find another way of dealing with them when they present themselves.

Here are a few common relapse triggers:

HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) – These are four “high-risk” scenarios for people who are in recovery. You should take special care to both avoid getting into one of these scenarios AND have a plan for what to do when they do occur. Things you can do to help yourself include

  • Meal prepping
  • Going to therapy
  • Group counseling
  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule that includes 8-hours of sleep per night

Perceived invincibility – This usually occurs when a person has already succeeded once and therefore thinks that they cannot fail. They become overconfident to the point where they overlook possible weaknesses. As you go through recovery and it seems to get easier, you may feel like you don’t need to adhere to your recovery plan. This can often lead to veering off course and relapsing.

Mental/physical illness – Often times, drug addiction is the result of a mental or physical illness. When people are able to or don’t want to get help for their illness, they use drugs as a coping mechanism. If there is a relapse in mental or physical illness in recovery, there is a very high chance for a relapse with drugs to co-occur.

Celebrating – Throughout the recovery process, there will be many opportunities for celebration. Getting a new job, an apartment, starting a relationship, enrolling in or graduating from school are all things that deserve to be celebrated! However, it’s socially acceptable to celebrate by throwing a party or going out for drinks. Recovering addicts should be wary of getting themselves into social situations where casual drug and/or alcohol abuse is present.

Stress – When we’re stressed out, we often turn to our vices to make us feel better. For some people, that vice is going to the gym. For others, it’s having a glass of wine. When you’re in recovery, it’s crucial to be proactive in stress management and prevention techniques so that you do not crave to use drugs and/or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Other factors that cause relapse

There are both internal and external factors that can cause relapse that aren’t necessarily defined by a specific trigger. Here are some signs that may begin to appear before a relapse:

Putting things before your sobriety – In recovery, the most important factor in your life should be your sobriety. You have to be proactive in every decision you make because, whether it’s obvious or not, every decision is going to directly relate to your sobriety. You have to be willing to work hard every day even after it becomes easier.

Not having enough support – having a solid support system is one of the most important factors in staying clean. Not only is it comforting knowing that people are there for you, but actually having someone or a group of people to lean on when times get hard can make the biggest difference between relapse and sobriety.

Not being prepared for the changes you have to make – your life in recovery is going to be vastly different from the life you lived as an addict. If you’re not prepared for that changes you’ll have to make, the relationships you’ll have to end, and the new routines you’ll have to establish, you may put yourself at risk of relapse.

What to do when you do relapse

Okay, so you’ve relapsed. It doesn’t discount all of the progress that you’ve made so far, you just have to get back up and start from a few steps back.

Consider if you need in-patient care – Relapsing can either be an isolated incident or a developing habit. If you have relapsed and feel like you have completely lost control of your sobriety, you may want to consider a stay at an in-patient facility.

Seek mental health care – Relapsing may be the result of a mental health or behavioral issue that can be remedied with the help of a therapist. If returning to in-patient doesn’t seem like the appropriate route, regular visits with a cognitive-behavioral therapist might.

Be honest – The only way that your friends, family, and doctors can help you is if you are completely honest with them. Tell them when you relapsed, how many times, with what, and how it’s made you feel.

If you need support during recovery or relapse, our phone lines are always open. There will always be support for you at Chapel Hill Detox.

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