Relapse is always in the realm of possibility for someone in addiction recovery no matter how long you have been sober. Because of this, a relapse prevention plan is key in maintaining long-term sobriety. You have put in the hard work during treatment, so before you leave, understand the warning signs and symptoms of relapse, and learn the coping skills to overcome any relapses.
Relapse Prevention Plans Can Help Identify Triggers
A relapse prevention plan is a structured guide that recovering addicts can leverage to help avoid using again. These plans are designed to identify what triggers can cause a relapse so those in recovery can know what to expect if they can feel a relapse approaching.
The 3 Stages of Relapse
Relapse doesn’t occur overnight. There are three stages involved before someone reaches for a drink or their drug of choice.
Stage 1. Emotional Relapse
In this stage, you are not yet thinking about using, but your emotions and behaviors are setting you up for relapse. This can include feelings of anxiety, skipping meetings or poor eating and sleeping habits.
Stage 2. Mental Relapse
Getting treatment help is critical in this phase. During this time, the part of you who wants to use is in direct conflict with the part of you who does not. The signs of relapse can be hanging out with old friends who use and glamorizing past drinking or drug abuse.
Stage 3. Physical Relapse
This is the act of actually relapsing and using drugs or alcohol again.
Common Relapse Triggers
Relapse doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. Common reasons or triggers to look out for include:
- Negative emotions
- Drug-related pressures
- Lack of support
- Unhealthy environment
- Poor self-care
- Uncomfortable feelings (ie. hunger, anger, loneliness, feeling tired)
Knowing and Recognizing the Warning Signs of Relapse:
One of the most successful methods of preventing relapse is learning how to recognize warning signs in the various phases so you can immediately get help. If recovering addicts can recognize their triggers, they can know what to do before they are put into the situation that would allow them to potentially relapse. Developing a relapse prevention plan in early recovery can reduce the risk of using again when the opportunity arises.
Preventing Emotional Relapse
Prevention at this early stage is when you are in emotional relapse and you recognize that your behavior is changing. It’s important to fight back the feeling of isolation and reach out for help. Now is also the time to practice relaxation techniques and proper self-care. This includes practicing good eating habits and getting plenty of sleep.
How to Deal with Mental Urges and Cravings to Use
Learn how to overcome the warning signs during the mental relapse phase:
- Think it through: You cannot control your use even if you believe you can. Think through your past mistakes and realize that one drink or one use will lead to many more
- Tell someone you are having urges
- Distract yourself: Go to a meeting or find something to take your mind off using
- Wait 30 minutes: Make yourself wait before using
- Continue to do your recovery one day at a time
- Make relaxation a priority
- Have emergency contacts set up and ready to help you when you need them
What Do I Do If I Relapse?
If you do physically relapse, don’t try to hide it or feel ashamed. Instead, contact your sponsor and get back into treatment as soon as possible to ensure you get back on the addiction recovery path quickly.
Receiving Help at any Stage of Relapse
Setbacks are normal in recovery, but you can avoid major pitfalls by recognizing the warning signs of relapse. A relapse prevention plan formed during your treatment is the best way to get through those difficult moments. The goal is to address these challenges before they even occur, so you are equipped for any issues when you leave treatment. For more information on how we approach relapse prevention, contact us today.