For those who have been in recovery or know someone who has, they understand the dangers of relapse. While nobody ever wants this to happen, it’s something that someone in recovery has to deal with often. While in treatment, the temptations are low or even non-existent, when you get back into the real world there are temptations all around you. Sometimes you’re able to push away those temptations. However, sometimes those temptations and cravings win, resulting in relapse.
When it comes to relapsing, it’s important to know that just because it happens, it doesn’t make you a failure. It’s also important to have a relapse prevention plan in place in order to help lower the risk of a relapse. What exactly is a relapse prevention plan? Let’s take a deeper look at that, as well as answer some other commonly asked questions about relapse.
Before we get into what a relapse prevention plan is, it’s important to fully understand the entire relapse process and how it works. While the concept of relapsing might seem simple enough (someone who is in recovery used a substance of abuse again), it’s much more complicated than what it appears to be on the surface.
Relapse is not something that just happens. Typically, it happens gradually over time. It begins with a craving or a temptation and goes from there. In fact, there are multiple stages of the relapse process. The main stages of relapse are emotional, mental, and physical.
Before anything physical happens, the first thing that will happen is that the body will undergo an emotional relapse. While this is the first stage, it is often the toughest of the stages to notice or recognize as it’s happening. During an emotional relapse, someone might begin engaging in behavior that can ultimately lead to the physical relapse happening. At this point, you are not actively thinking about abusing any substances. However, you may begin to notice feelings of anger, sadness, or anxiety.
Once you start to experience these feelings, that’s when the mental relapse portion kicks in. At this point, you begin to actively start thinking about using again, usually as a way to get rid of these negative feelings that have arisen. While you know you don’t want to start using again, you will also likely start missing certain aspects of using.
At this point, it’s likely that you will start getting nostalgic and thinking about all the good times you had while you were using. Unfortunately, you won’t be thinking about all the bad that happened that resulted in you going and getting help in the first place. You might even go so far as to actively put yourself in situations and settings where there are opportunities to start using again.
If you have made it through the first two stages and not metaphorically turned around, you will reach the physical act of relapsing. This is the point where you use drugs and alcohol again. You might even think that you can handle doing it just one time. However, all it takes is one time to find yourself back down the path that led you to rehab in the first place.
For each stage of the relapse process, there are certain signs that you can look out for that might indicate that you are on that path. Knowing what these signs are and knowing what to look out for can go a long way in preventing anything from escalating past even the earliest stages of emotional relapse.
During the emotional relapse stage, it’s important to be on the lookout for any of the following signs or symptoms:
If you have made it through the emotional relapse stage without noticing any of these signs or symptoms, there are also signs that you might be in the mental relapse stage. Some of those signs include:
If you have hit this point and still either fail to notice any of these signs or symptoms or have chosen to ignore them, the chances of relapse will be high. However, if you or someone you know is able to catch on and recognize any of these signs, you might be able to enact a relapse prevention plan before it is too late.
A relapse prevention plan is a course of action put in place to ensure that a recovering addict doesn’t make it all the way to physical relapse. This plan not only holds the person who is in recovery accountable for their thoughts and actions. It also helps them recognize some of their behaviors that may lead to relapse if not identified. A relapse prevention plan helps them with ways to combat those behaviors before it’s too late.
Typically, this plan is a physical, written document that the recovering addict creates with the help of their treatment team. This can include their therapist or counselors. After its creation, the person shares it with their support group.
As we mentioned above, relapse prevention plans are typically created with the help of treatment professionals. While you can do it on your own, it is helpful to have someone around who is well versed in the process. When it comes to creating a plan, there are three main points to consider.
Before beginning to create your plan, it’s important to assess yourself and your history with drugs and alcohol. Figuring out what caused you to use before can be helpful in avoiding the same or a similar situation in the future. Some important questions to ask yourself when assessing your history include:
While nobody can truly predict the future, there are certain things that we can do to actively help in preventing certain things from happening. For those in recovery, one of those things is preventing relapse. Coming up with hypothetical situations or scenarios in which you may relapse can allow you to then come up with ways in which you can actively prevent those scenarios from coming to life.
When someone begins the relapse process, they likely won’t be thinking clearly. Having a plan in place that you can look at can go a long way in helping to prevent the relapse process from getting to the physical stage. In your action plan, you might put down to attend meetings when you feel a certain way or call a family member or loved one in order to talk about your feelings. The more specific your plan is and the more situations you have clearly written out, the better off you will be should one of those situations arise.
Since it’s likely you won’t be thinking clearly when you begin the emotional relapse phase, the more details you have written down, the better. This can include:
If you are including specific people in your plan, make sure you let them know so that they can plan accordingly. It’s likely that they’ll want to put a plan in place for themselves when the time comes that you call or reach out.
When it comes to relapsing, it is important to remember that this happens to even the best of people. If you relapse, it doesn’t make you a failure. It’s also important to have a plan in place should a relapse occur.
At Chapel Hill Medical Detox, we understand that relapse happens. That’s why we make a point to work with everyone who comes to us to help create a custom relapse prevention plan for them and their needs. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction or has relapsed, contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs as well as your relapse prevention plans.