What are the 3 Stages of Relapse? Learn to Recognize the Signs

There are three stages to relapse, emotional, mental, and physical. These stages can start long before the person is aware that they are slipping into the relapse pattern. The relapse process happens gradually. Sometimes it can even take months from the start of relapse to the time the person picks up a substance to abuse. We at Coastal Detox are here to help if you are in need of drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation. We can help you get back on the road to recovery.

How Do I Know if I’m Going Through the Emotional Phase of Relapse?

There are several emotional and behavioral signs that you are going through the first phase of relapse. These emotions and behaviors are:

  • Intolerance
  • Anxiety
  • Defensiveness 
  • Mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Anger
  • Poor eating habits develop
  • Poor sleeping habits develop
  • Not asking for help
  • General poor self-care

Are Boundaries Important to Prevent Relapse?

Many people who are on their long-term road to recovery are afraid of being selfish and will put the needs of others before their own. It is important for you to practice self-care and set healthy boundaries. You cannot care for your loved ones if you do not take care of yourself. 

Is Self-Care Important on My Road to Recovery?

Self-care is important to maintain your sobriety that it is emphasized in most clinical rehabilitation programs. Self-care is also extremely important in maintaining your sobriety if you have a co-occurring disorder. A co-occurring disorder is when someone has one or more other mental health disorders as well as a substance abuse disorder. 

What Does HALT Mean for Addiction Recovery?

A way to remind yourself that you are not taking good care of yourself is the acronym HALT. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. Denial is often a part of the emotional stage of relapse. However, if you catch yourself going down to the road back to addiction, getting out of that pattern and back to your road to recovery is easier the sooner you catch yourself heading back to the end stage of relapse, physical relapse. 

Is it Important to Attend My 12 Step Meetings?

It is very important to stay in contact with someone who can recognize the symptoms of the relapse process. One of the most important parts of some post-clinical programs like 12 step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is the sponsorship program. A sponsor in a 12-step program usually has at least 1-2 years of active sobriety. 

Who Can I Trust to Help Me Identify if I am Going to Relapse?

If you have a sponsor, definitely have that person as a standby. If not, make sure a family member or friend, who understands your struggle is available for help.  It is important for you to trust the people in your life who have a history of caring for you. You should also share the symptoms of all the stages of relapse with them so that they can help you as well as information on relapse prevention. They might be able to spot a relapse coming before you can.

Be Sure to Listen to Concerns From Those You Trust

It is important to listen to a sponsor or other trusted person in your life if they tell you that your behavior and personality seem to be changing and if those changes are positive or some of the warning signs listed in this article. It is also important to remember HALT. If you are having a hard time thinking about if you are having any HALT symptoms and contact someone to help you.

Do I Absolutely Have to Go to My 12 Step or S.M.A.R.T Meetings?

It is also important that you do not stop going to meetings. People at your meetings might also be able to tell if you are going through the stages leading up to using again. 12 step programs and S.M.A.R.T are not punishing reminders of what you went through. They can keep you in touch with what you need to do to maintain your sobriety. Many people who are in 12 step programs find that being a sponsor or helping others maintain their sobriety also helps them. It is often satisfying to most people to be able to give back. 

How Do I Know if I am Going Through the Mental Stage of Relapse?

Your poor self-care will continue throughout this phase and most people stop going to their 12 step or other recovery meetings and/or therapy. During the mental phase of relapse, your mind is at war with itself. Part of you want to use very badly and the other part of you knows that it is not a good thing and that you shouldn’t do it. You are actively thinking about relapsing.

Do Avoiding High-Risk Areas Make Me Weak?

Some people do not avoid high-risk areas. High-risk areas are places that make you want to use substances again. They might be places where you used to use, buy the substances, or places that might affect you for reasons that are unknown to you. Some people do not avoid high-risk areas because they think that avoiding trouble areas makes them weak. That is not the case. You need to do what you need to do to maintain your sobriety. 

What Do People Who are in the Mental Stage of Relapse Think About?

During the mental stage of relapse, the person with a substance use disorder begins to actively think about relapsing. You might find yourself:

  • Glamorizing your period of active addiction
  • Hanging out with old friends you used to use with
  • Having fantasies about using
  • Thinking about or planning a relapse
  • Planning a relapse around other people’s schedule
  • Planning any relapse
  • Bargaining
    • When a person is bargaining, they are setting up “if” situations such as if my wife goes to see her family I will use. She won’t be around to be harmed by it and she won’t see me. She won’t even have to know. Some people give themselves permission to use on vacations as part of a bargain that they don’t do it at home so it is “not as bad” they might tell themselves. 
    • Sometimes people might plan controlled using instances during bargaining. For example, they might decide they will celebrate their birthday by using but only that one time every year. 
    • Another example of bargaining is someone switching from one addictive substance to another. An example is someone who was recovering from a heroin addiction might decide to try opioids like oxycodone instead of heroin thinking it won’t be as bad because it is a medication instead of something that doesn’t have quality control. 
  • Lying
  • Trying to think of better ways to control their using instead of using whenever they can
  • Looking for relapse opportunities like going by somewhere they know they can get substances or meeting up with old friends they used to use with who might have substances with them
  • Fantasizing about using 
  • Planning the relapse

How Do I Know if I am Going Through the Physical Stage of Relapse?

During the physical stage of relapse, the person will get in their car, drive to their dealer, a liquor store, or wherever they need to go to obtain their substances and take them.

What is the Difference Between a Lapse and a Relapse?

A ‘lapse’ is the first drink or the first use. A ‘relapse’ is the continued drinking or use after that. Unfortunately, when some people have a relapse they choose to ‘get the most out of it they can’. This might mean going to extremes with their substance abuse. 

What Is the Biggest Danger in Relapsing?

It is important to remember if you relapse that you may have not been using for a while. Many people die because they take in too much alcohol or too many drugs, and do not realize or forget that they have less of a tolerance than they did before they started their clinical recovery journey. The longer you have been on your road to recovery the less of a tolerance you still have to drugs and or alcohol.

Where can I Go to Get Help After I Relapse?

After you relapse it is important for you to contact someone you trust and plan on how to return to your road to recovery. We, at Coastal Detox, work with people who have relapsed and want to get back to their sobriety journey. We have trained professionals who can help you gain a better understanding of yourself, your triggers, and help you create a better sobriety plan. Often your plan just needs adjustment. There is nothing morally wrong with you. Addiction is a health condition like asthma. You wouldn’t tell someone with asthma to just suck it up, throw away their inhaler, and start to breathe. No one should be saying those sorts of things to you. Including yourself. 

When you are ready to get back on your road to recovery please contact us . Call us at: (877) 978-3125.

References:

https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/relapse-prevention.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/

Real Client Testimonials

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    2/13/2020
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    6/08/2019
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    1/22/2020
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    2/14/2020
  • Coastal Detox is an amazing facility. Caring and professional staff available 24/7. I was dreading going. Now I only wish I had not waited so long. Top shelf facility and I highly recommend it to anyone seeking freedom from any form of addiction.

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    1/26/2019

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