Setbacks and challenges are a part of life, including during recovery, but that doesn’t have to mean relapsing! During and after drug and alcohol rehab, you will experience situations or thoughts that will make you question your progress and all the hard work that you’ve put towards your journey to a new life. 1 Setbacks do not mean you are failing but instead, should be taken as reminders that it is possible to fall back into old habits and your old lifestyle. Continuing your care even after a rehab stay and knowing the early signs of being triggered will help prevent relapse after drug and alcohol rehab.
Without learning helpful coping mechanisms and having a strong support system in place, these negative thoughts, urges, and mental setbacks may lead to physical relapse. That is why it is so important to have an encouraging aftercare or outpatient treatment plan.
Triggers and early warning signs of relapse after Drug and Alcohol Rehab
Because the process of relapse happens sometimes begins months prior to physically relapsing, there are triggers, warning signs, and emotional symptoms you can be aware of. 2 It’s good to know what the process of relapse looks like can help you become more self-aware of your personal triggers. In addition, you will also know when you may need to reach out for extra help.
Triggers related to substance abuse will be different for everyone. Whether it’s a sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste, a trigger will bring back strong memories or intense feelings that occurred during the negative event (such as using). 2
What Are the Most Common Triggers of a Relapse?
The most common triggers are: 3
- Poor self-care and stress management abilities
- Inadequate eating and sleeping habits
- People, places, or things from your past that you associate with using
- Withdrawal symptoms – anxiety, nausea, physical weakness
- Uncomfortable emotions – hunger, anger, loneliness, exhaustion
- Being isolated with too much free time
- Stress from a relationship
You can also be at risk for relapsing if you become overconfident that your substance abuse is way behind you or even begin to think you never had a substance abuse problem, to begin with. That’s why it’s vital to accept your past and to allow yourself to be patient with your healing.
If you are aware of your triggers and the signs of a relapse, you will be able to address the issue more quickly and know when to reach out for help.
What Are the Warning Signs of a Relapse?
The common warning signs of a potential relapse include: 3
- Having mood swings or feeling strong emotions, such as anxiety, anger, defensiveness, impatience, and isolation
- Not asking for help when you need it
- Skipping meetings related to your treatment
- Having poor eating or sleeping habits
- Hanging out with friends from your past (related to substance abuse)
- Fantasizing about using again
- Beginning to lie about your habits
Importance of Aftercare and/or Outpatient Treatment
There are certain techniques you can practice that may ease your urge to use again and help them to pass quickly, such as: 3
- Thinking about the consequences of relapsing
- Letting a friend in your support system know you’re thinking of using
- Distracting yourself to take your mind off your urges
- Waiting 30 minutes for your urge to naturally pass
- Taking your sobriety one day at a time and let that be enough
- Letting yourself relax and unwind and become open to change
Even with these techniques, you may still find yourself in an uphill battle that’s becoming harder and harder to win.
Enrolling in an aftercare treatment program will help you with the transition between levels of care (residential to outpatient). It will also provide an ongoing plan for support to prevent relapse. 4
Aftercare treatment typically includes:
- Individualized activities
- Creating resources
- An outlet for all aspects of your well being
Needing long term support for long term sobriety is a perfectly wholesome and healthy thing to give yourself and should not be looked at as a weakness!
Contacting Ocean Hills Recovery, Drug and Alcohol Rehab in California
At Ocean Hills Recovery, we understand that graduating from drug and alcohol rehab is an incredible milestone. It’s normal for you to still have anxieties about what the next steps in your journey will look like. With our supportive and encouraging Intensive Outpatient Program, we will continue to provide you a warm and welcoming environment that you can continue to use as you heal and grow. With our community-style approach, we can assure you that you will never be alone.
To hear more about our Outpatient Program or our Sober Living option, or to discuss a personalized treatment plan, please contact us today. Oftentimes, new challenges can make us feel like we are alone in facing them, but at Ocean Hills Recovery, we’ll you show that you never are!
References: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/  https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-a-trigger/  https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/relapse-prevention.htm  https://cabhp.asu.edu/sites/default/files/session_5a_and_5b_substance_abuse_aftercare.pdf
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.