In the course of recovery, the idea of a relapse is an ever-present possibility looming over one’s progress. The stages of change treatment model actually builds relapse into its model. This is because the model acknowledges that for the vast majority of individuals seeking to make a significant change in their behavior, a relapse is almost certainly going to occur at least once at some point in the future. Of course, there are those rare cases where a person quits a substance and never looks back, but this is almost always the exception to the rule. If you are in the midst of recovery, here are a few of the most common relapse danger signs to be aware of.
Relapse is a Process
When a person decides to relapse into an old behavior, to an outsider it may appear to be a singular event; a simple momentary lapse in judgement and self-control. However, this is often not the case as many incidents of relapse are actually a longer process which started long before the actual event took place. There are several stages a person will go through before they decide to use again.
The first stage of a relapse is when a person experiencing an emotional relapse, which is when a person experiences a negative emotional response. This may be in the form of moodiness, erratic behavior, a disruption in sleeping habits, intense bouts of anger or sadness, or any other signal which can indicate an emotional relapse has begun. Typically, this stage occurs quite a while before a person is aware of the possibility that they are about to relapse.
The second stage is when a person has a mental relapse, whereby they begin to argue and battle with their mind over their decision to remain sober. In this stage, an individual may experience feelings of intense doubt and personal conflict, as an old pattern may reemerge and begin to create a push-and-pull feeling inside of someone. During this period, a person will become conscious of the possibility of relapse and their own personal desire to begin using again. If an individual doesn’t correct their thoughts, it can be very easy to enter the last stage of a relapse.
The third and final stage of relapse is a physical relapse, which is when a person makes the decision to relapse and consumes whatever substance they were abstaining from. A break in sobriety can make it more difficult, though not impossible, to become sober and abstain from the substance. The act of breaking a long period of sobriety can make it very easy to use multiple times within a short period of time, highlighting the need to remain vigilant about the various relapse danger signs. Continued after infographic:
Change in Attitude
A major relapse warning sign to be aware of is when a person experiences a change in their attitude regarding their sobriety. This may be due to a recent experience or discussion with someone else which triggered the idea of potentially relapsing. If you find yourself starting to believe that your previous serious addiction was actually not that bad and that you’d probably be fine to start using again, this is a significant warning sign to become aware of. A change in attitude may not be explicitly about your sobriety, but it can eventually lead to a relapse if it makes it more likely that you’d want to use again, such as having a more negative outlook on life.
Stressful Life Circumstances
A huge relapse danger sign that every person in recovery should be aware of is when difficult life circumstances arise. This can be something such as a break up, the loss of a loved one, a new job, economic hardship, or any other number of factors. Stress can cause a person to lose their inhibitions and begin experiencing stronger cravings for their preferred substance. Any situation which creates feelings of hopelessness or depression can lead a person down the road towards relapse. Often, individuals experience stress after re-entering the ‘real world’, following a stint in residential treatment. A treatment center which provides a healing environment can be a stark contrast to many scenarios which may await a person upon their release.
The Effect of Mental Health on Relapse
Mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression, are one of the strongest possible triggers which a person should be aware of in their fight to remain sober. Depression and substance abuse are very often linked from the start. If a person begins to feel depressed or stressed, it can trigger a relapse because it is linked with the primary reason they began using to begin with. Drugs and alcohol can be an extremely common negative coping skill for an individual dealing with mental health issues, and an experience which makes their symptoms worse can also be damaging to their recovery process.
Stress and Relapse
Stress can exacerbate any of these conditions, as it can make a person much more vulnerable and less able to healthily cope with their present condition. Dealing with any form of stress, regardless of the root cause, can precipitate a relapse, as a person may reach a point where they feel like the only way to relieve their tension is to use their preferred substance of choice. This makes it incredibly important to develop healthy coping skills and to recognize when additional help may be needed. Stressful situations can lead a person to overreact and do something their normal self wouldn’t be likely to engage in.
Get Help with Relapse Prevention
If you are experiencing serious relapse danger signs and you’re wanting to address the problem before it gets out of control, contact Ocean Hills Recovery today to keep you focused on the path to recovery. We offer a solutions-focused approach which is structured according to each person’s individual situation. Relapse doesn’t need to be viewed as a failure, but it can only become a success if you decide to take the next step and address the problem. Let the caring clinicians of Ocean Hills Recovery help you jumpstart the recovery process and keep you on the road to sobriety.