Relapse Prevention & Management Tips

Relapse Prevention & Management Tips
Addiction March 16, 2020
Author: Ilana Jael

It may be fair to say that preventing relapse is one of the primary reasons that people seek out addiction treatment and sober living programs. Because they have tried to quit using drugs or alcohol without the support of a strong recovery community, they lacked the tools needed to resist the emotional triggers, physical cravings, and behavior patterns of addiction.

In fact, studies show that people who did manage to quit on their own were less likely to remain sober for three years than those who chose support groups or a sober living facility for professional help.1 These findings suggest that even if you have achieved “natural remission” and stopped drinking or using drugs, your likelihood of staying sober will be higher if you join an organized program and complete it successfully.

Relapse begins long before an individual starts using substances again. Let’s look deeper into the stages of relapse and how to take preventative steps along the way, with practical tips you can incorporate into your own journey toward long-term sobriety.

Understanding the Stages of Relapse

Relapse is a gradual process that usually happens in a predictable way. Mental health professionals agree that there are stages of relapse, and that the goal of treatment should be to help people recognize the early warning signs and manage their risk of relapse with therapy and strong coping skills.2

We will discuss all three stages, which have different risks for relapse:

Stage 1: Emotional Relapse

Emotional relapse begins while you are still actively determined not to use drugs or alcohol. While you may strongly desire to stay sober, feelings of denial and emotional habits of behavior begin to set you up for relapse. Some of the early signs of this stage include:2

Preventing Relapse in This Stage

When you or your support people see the signs of emotional relapse, taking action to improve self-care and prioritize your recovery will be the first step. This is why your program may use the reminder HALT to help you recognize the danger of being hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Some of the immediate actions you can take to turn things around include:

Stage 2:  Mental Relapse

group of young people runs along the road

In earlier stages, you had no intention of using again. If interventions supporting better self-care are not made or are not successful, a battle begins inside your mind, and you or your loved one enters the mental relapse stage.

You begin to have thoughts of using drugs or alcohol, and your ability to resist these thoughts begins to diminish. You have not yet relapsed, but these warning signs exist:2

It is important not to interpret these feelings as signs of failure. Facing and coping with triggers and cravings is part of the brave work of recovery. It is normal to have thoughts like these, but it is vital that, to prevent relapse, you recognize them and seek support.

Preventing Relapse in This Stage

This may be the time to look for more focused therapy to stop your relapse before it becomes a physical reality. The time to take action is now for the greatest chance of success in recovery.2 Some steps you or your loved one can take right away include:

Stage 3:  Physical Relapse

Without active intervention in stage 2, many individuals start using again. Physical relapse is a dangerous place to be, and your recovery, your health, and the things you care about may be threatened. Things to consider clearly when you or your loved one reaches this stage are:2

Managing Relapse in This Stage

You have not failed in your recovery, and there are steps you can take right now to move forward and protect what you hold dear. Keep these things in mind if you reach physical relapse:

What Causes Relapse Long After Addiction Treatment?

Young people discussion while sitting together on special group therapy

People who have achieved sobriety and avoided relapse during early recovery face different challenges than those who have just finished a treatment program. With success comes some feelings of complacency and a tendency to let the rules slip a little.

At these later phases of recovery, some of the causes of possible relapse include:

Take Advantage of All Your Resources to Prevent Relapse

Preventing and managing relapse is your number-one concern in all stages of recovery and, just as asking for help is essential when you begin the journey, it is empowering to find the help you need at every critical place on your path to healing. Whenever you feel at risk of relapse, reach out for support.

One option to surround yourself in a safe and sober environment while you face these challenges or recover from a relapse is a sober living facility like the RECO Institute in Delray Beach, FL. Our evidence-based therapies and sober living programs are available to residents of our comfortable homes in an environment rich in natural beauty and compassionate support.

Our sober residential housing is supervised and comfortable, with direct access to RECO Intensive’s outpatient programs and organized events that will inspire your continued commitment to your own recovery journey. Contact us today to find out how we can help you prevent or manage your relapse.


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