So, What is a Relapse Anyway?
People who are in recovery from addiction may slip and pick up a drug or drink. What’s a relapse? It is when someone suddenly returns to doing drugs or drinking after they quit using these substances. It is important to remember that this does not mean you are a failure. Unfortunately it is a possibility. If you do relapse, you can get back on track by returning to an addiction treatment program.
Different Types of Relapse
Some people consider any relapse the same. However, there are some different types and circumstances. If you want to understand this phenomenon, it is helpful to understand how it happens and what the different kinds are The kinds include:
- Slip – ex. taking one sip of alcohol or a hit of weed when someone gives it to you (this can lead to a more extensive run)
- Full relapse – ex. going back to your addictive behaviors such as going to a party and getting drunk or getting high on pain medication
While both of these qualify, there are some differences. A slip can happen as a result of a momentary impulse or lack of awareness. It’s not something someone plans for or premeditates. They don’t generally go seeking drugs or alcohol. Typically, someone has offered it to them. A slip can often lead to a full-blown run back into drugs however. A person may, ironically, be so upset by the slip that they figure, they had might as well use now. Sometimes the slip just reignites the phenomenon of craving your drug of choice and you’re off and running.
In still other situations it may be triggered by an upsetting event like a breakup or divorce or losing a job. You might become so uncomfortable in your own skin that all you can think about is changing the way you feel, right then and there. This is clearly a dangerous state of mind to be in and it’s one of the reasons why in recovery we are urged to have sober supports.
The best thing to remember is that the worst can happen. You don’t need to live in constant fear of it. But you should also never assume that time alone somehow protects you from it. If we neglect our program of recovery, we become more vulnerable to relapse. It does not matter if we have 10 months or 10 years of sobriety when it comes to that. If you do pick up, you can get back into your recovering lifestyle by receiving help from others. You can contact an addiction rehab center and talk to your alumni team.
Many people pick up without initial thoughts that they want to drink or do drugs again. Unfortunately, it just happens sometimes. However, there are some stages of a relapse that might occur. Understanding these stages is part of the education that can help you avoid these pitfalls in the first place. They are less likely to take you out if you see them coming.
The stages include:
- Emotional – a person starts having emotions such as mood swings or increased irritability that may cause them to want to drink or do drugs
- Mental – someone may start having internal conflicts such as justifying why it would be alright to drink or use drugs sometimes, but also remembering why they shouldn’t
- Physical – this is when someone does drugs or drinks alcohol (it can be a one-time thing or the person may go on a binge)
If you haven’t done drugs or drank alcohol yet, be sure to reach out for help. You can try preventing a physical relapse. If you have already had one remember, your recovery isn’t over. You can get help and get sober again. After doing that, you may need to revise your relapse prevention plan.
Helping Someone Who Has Relapsed
You might have a loved one or friend who picks up. You should be there for them as much as you can be, but remember not to put your own recovery in jeopardy in the process, if you are in recovery.
Some positive things you can do for someone are the following:
- Connecting with them – call them every couple of days (more if they want you to) or visit them
- Talk to them about the triggers and see what you can do to help them prevent these
- Be understanding and patient (they likely already feel bad enough and don’t need judgment from anyone)
- Please encourage them to get help for their emotions and the relapse
- Offer options (therapy, rehab center treatment, or new relapse prevention tips)
- Go to therapy with them (sometimes, family therapy can be beneficial if there are high levels of stress in the family)
If you need help handling a loved one’s relapse, you may want to attend individual therapy, as well.
Getting Help Afterwards and Working on Relapse Prevention
A relapse is frustrating and stressful for the person in recovery. It can affect those who support them, too, such as family and friends.
The proper handling of a relapse can affect how someone continues their recovery. If the person who has a relapse gets the help they need after relapsing, it can encourage them to get clean and keep moving forward.
Treatment programs, support from others and recovery resources can help someone get back into the swing of things after a relapse. If you know someone who has had a relapse, make sure you are there for them as much as possible. The support you give could make all the difference to how they handle their relapse.
Many relapse prevention tips can help someone to prevent a relapse. Some of these include making a gratitude journal, having a support team and going to therapy. However, even with a plan in place, sometimes a relapse happens. After getting clean, amending your relapse prevention plan might be helpful. Now that you know what’s a relapse, you can get help if you or someone you know has had one. Contact us today to start addiction treatment or get help and advice with recovery.