Completing drug and alcohol treatment is a major accomplishment for newly recovering addict. When treatment is completed, an individual feels like a whole new world opens up for them that is filled with new opportunities and limitless possibilities. While this new chapter in life is exciting, it may be difficult to comprehend that relapsing back into addiction often occurs and that addicts have high rates of relapse, no matter how solid their plan of recovery.
According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 70% of those who complete substance abuse treatment will experience a relapse, and especially within the first year of recovery. This is the reason why drug rehab facilities place great emphasis on teaching those new in recovery the essential relapse prevention techniques that are needed to combat the urges and cravings that can lead to relapse behavior. At Dream Center for Recovery, the teaching of relapse prevention skills is a critical component of our drug and alcohol treatment program.
Understanding the Causes of Relapse
At Dream Center for Recovery, we teach our clients that relapse isn’t a singular event that “just happens” out of the blue in an instance. Instead, relapse is an ongoing process of events. Clients will understand there are three stages of relapse, and by recognizing these stages and the symptoms that accompany each stage they can engage in healthy ways to combat these symptoms. These stages can begin weeks and even months before the addict begins to reuse substances. These stages are as follows:
In the emotional stage the addict may not be thinking of using again, but they can experience overwhelming emotions that may set them up for a relapse. These symptoms can include anxiety, fear, fatigue and anger among others. Additionally, a newly recovering person can also experience a loss of control, poor judgment, insomnia or other sleep issues and may have problems at work or school. Since an addict had substances to handle difficulties in the past, reliving some of these emotions can put them at risk for relapse. It is important to manage whatever is going on that is causing any of the above symptoms.
When the addict is struggling to cope with their emotions and it is causing distress, the newly recovering addict has entered the mental relapse stage. In this stage, the urge to use drugs and alcohol again is causing an internal tug-of-war with the deep desires to not throw away all the pain, sacrifice and effort it took to get clean and sober in the first place. The common signs of mental relapse can include the following:
- Beginning to hang out with old friends and acquaintances the addict used to do drugs and alcohol with on a regular basis.
- Longing for the times when they used drugs and alcohol.
- Preoccupation with thinking about the people, places and activities from the past that centered on substance use.
- Thinking of discrete ways to use substances without family and friends knowing or while they are at work or school.
- The occasional thought of using substances become a constant stream of thought that revolves around using substances.
The inevitable step after mental relapse is the actual event in which an individual starts using drugs and alcohol. Physical relapse occurs shortly after the mental relapse stage and the moment when drug use occurs means recovery is over. When a person reaches this stage, an individual experiences extreme feelings of guilt and remorse which can result in depression. In this state, the addict may feel they may be a lost cause and will continue to abuse drugs and alcohol.