Unfortunately, while treatment is effective in helping individuals gain the necessary coping techniques needed throughout recovery, relapse is inevitable. In fact, according to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, those recovering from drug abuse are 40-50% likely to relapse. And, while most relapses occur in the first weeks and months of recovery, individuals may be susceptible to relapsing even years after recovery began. So, for this reason alone, it’s highly important that people struggling with addiction understand the importance of implementing relapse prevention throughout treatment. Fortunately, implementing these strategies throughout treatment is effective in helping people develop the necessary thought and behavioral patterns necessary to reduce the risk for relapse.
Exactly what is relapse? What does it mean to relapse? It’s common that people think that addiction is a problem of willpower. On the contrary, the truth is that addiction is a disease. One which affects the makeup and functionality of the brain. As a result, those dealing with addiction may have impaired self-control and increased impulsivity. This means that they are more influenced by cravings and may have a more challenging time resisting urges. Thus, those who are attempting to recover from addiction may not always be successful. And, this unsuccessful attempt at recovery is referred to as a relapse.
The term relapse isn’t only used in the field of addiction. It’s used to describe when any patient diagnosed with a disease reverts back to illness after respite. Often, relapse is looked at as a single event–the act of using drugs after being sober for an amount of time. However, the act of using drugs is only the final stage of relapse. Addiction relapse is a process that involves three different stages: emotional, mental, and physical.
Relapse can start months before an individual actually uses his or her drug of choice in recovery. That’s because relapse is a process, not a single act. And, signifies the importance of developing relapse prevention strategies throughout treatment. When individuals are taught to recognize the stages of relapse before the physical act of using drugs occurs, they have a better chance of remaining successful during recovery.
First, during the emotional stage of relapse, an individual isn’t necessarily thinking about using his or her drug of choice. But, they may be experiencing certain emotions which can negatively impact their recovery and lead to the next phase of relapse. Some signs of the emotional stage of relapse may include stopping treatment efforts, neglecting social responsibilities, isolation, reduction of self-care techniques, and denial.
Next, if the relapse isn’t halted in the emotional stage, a relapsing person will enter the mental stage. In this stage, an individual may already be thinking about using drugs, but also wants to remain sober. This is a result of neglecting to take care of recovery responsibilities which can lead to shame, self-doubt, and insecurity. Signs of this stage of relapse include experiencing drug cravings, fantasizing about using drugs, glamorizing drug use, and preparing to relapse in the future.
Finally, the last stage of relapse is the physical act of using. Basically, it happens when an individual can no longer not act on impulses to use. But while many may think relapse is the end of recovery, it doesn’t have to be! As mentioned before, most people relapse after treatment. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have another chance at recovery. The most important thing to remember when relapse occurs is that it doesn’t have to mean the end for addiction recovery!
Whether you’ve already relapsed or you are going to treatment in the future, it’s vital to establish relapse prevention measures. Here at The Willow Place for Women, we offer educational tools and therapies which incorporate relapse prevention techniques. So, women in our program can develop coping strategies which help reduce the risk of experiencing a relapse. And, provide them with the information needed if the process of relapse were to ever occur in their lives. This way, our treatment graduates have the best chance at obtaining a long-lasting and successful recovery from drug or alcohol addiction!