Overcoming substance abuse is a formidable challenge that many people worldwide face.
In the long journey toward recovery, one of the most significant hurdles to overcome is the risk of relapse of drug or alcohol abuse.
This article can help you identify the signs of the three stages of relapse and discover strategies for adjusting your behavior and environment to lead a healthier, sober life.
Signs Of Emotional Relapse (Stage 1)
Emotional relapse is the first stage in the relapse process. At this point, people are not actively contemplating substance use.
Instead, they are experiencing inner turmoil and emotional instability, which may manifest as mood swings, irritability, and poor self-care.
People may struggle due to a combination of internal conflicts alongside outside environmental factors, such as working in an area near a bar.
People in the midst of emotional relapse may struggle to keep up with basic acts of self-care, such as feeding themselves and maintaining healthy sleep habits.
These emotional struggles can be thought of as warning signs, and often indicate a need for connecting with a support system, prioritizing mental health, and practicing self-compassion.
Signs Of Mental Relapse (Stage 2)
Mental relapse is the second stage, characterized by a tug-of-war within the person’s mind. On one hand, there’s the desire to remain sober, but on the other is the allure of past substance use.
During the mental relapse stage, people may start fantasizing about and have cravings for the substance they once used. These internal thought patterns are often difficult to ignore.
They may start glamorizing behaviors associated with past drug use, and may even revisit the people or places they once frequented while using.
If you or a family member has begun rationalizing or romanticizing past use, it is critical to implement relapse prevention strategies and seek support.
Experiencing Physical Relapse (Stage 3)
The final stage is physical relapse, where the person actually returns to substance use. Once this stage is reached, it can be challenging to stop the relapse process from progressing.
Often, physical relapse requires a return to early recovery efforts and reliance on support systems. However, it’s important to remember that relapse doesn’t have to be a permanent setback.
According to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40% and 60% of people with drug addiction experience a relapse along the road to recovery.
Know that you are not alone in the fight. People experiencing addiction relapse symptoms are encouraged to seek the help they need to get back on track to sober living.
Relapse Triggers: How To Manage Them
It’s worth noting that not everyone who experiences emotional or mental relapse will progress to physical relapse.
Identifying and addressing the early signs as they manifest can be crucial in preventing a bigger setback.
Some notable triggers that can increase the risk of relapse include:
- co-occurring mental illness
- lack of social support
- negative coping skills
- environmental factors
Spending time identifying some of the daily triggers that may come up in your recovery journey can be a valuable aspect of staying sober.
If you or a loved one who is recovering from substance abuse finds themselves overcome with daily stressors, try practicing behaviors that can calm you down during high-intensity moments.
Relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises and gentle yoga practice, can be beneficial to add to your self-care routines.
Finding Support When You Need It
Support from professionals, friends, and family, as well as the development of effective coping mechanisms and relapse prevention strategies, can significantly improve the chances of staying sober.
Many people may find that they benefit more from finding support among peers. Engaging in group meetings with others who are in recovery can be very helpful.
A rigorous outpatient program can also be a good way to keep recovery in mind as a part of your weekly routine. Ask your support system or a licensed counselor at a treatment center for available care options.
Don’t be afraid to lean on friends and family during the hard moments. They are there to support you in your journey to live a healthier life and can keep you on track toward what’s best for you.
Find Substance Abuse Treatment
Need assistance on the road to recovery? Take a proactive approach and visit AddictionResource.net today for more information, or call us for further assistance.
Published on December 19, 2023
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) — Relapse
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) — Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) — Reducing Relapse Risk