Neither addiction nor relapse happens overnight. Typically, addiction takes the substance user through a step-by-step downward spiral that ends in addiction treatment. Relapse also has stages and learning to spot the triggers and the stages of a relapse can help stop it before it actually reaches the physical stage.
Relapse Prevention: What You Do Not Know Can Hurt You
The best argument for never starting down the path toward substance use is that addiction is forever. Addiction is a complicated, chronic disease. This means that you will battle it for the rest of your life and have periods of remission and relapse.
One thing that is understood now about addiction is that there are steps leading toward relapse, just like there are steps for getting sober. In fact, relapse is not one single moment, but a series of mental and physical triggers that cause people to fall off the wagon. The other important thing to note is that relapse is very common; Drugabuse.gov says that 40 to 60 percent of substance users relapse at least once during recovery. Relapse does not mean that you have failed, but for many people, it is part of their recovery journey.
Learning to spot the three stages of relapse means that you may be able to seek Washington State addiction recovery support before the relapse occurs. Be alert for the following three signs that a relapse is coming:
- There is the emotional relapse when you begin isolating yourself from other people and skipping recovery meetings. Look for bottled up emotions and disruption in your sleeping and eating patterns.
- Mental relapse comes after a long period of failing to take care of your physical and emotional health. You may start craving drugs or alcohol and feel angry and out-of-sorts. These feelings feed the urge to use again, and you may start to think more about the people and places tied to your past substance use. This may even lead to behaviors like buying a bottle of alcohol and staring at it, in a kind of planned relapse.
- The final stage in relapse is physical; you are actually using again. You may find yourself wondering how in the world you got here and feel that you let everyone down.
Starting down the slippery slope toward relapse occurs due to certain triggers that you may not even at first recognize. External triggers could be the people or places that you have associated with substance use. You may run into an old friend who is still using or you may be at a party and someone offers you a drink. Any of these events could start you down the relapse path. Or, a stressful situation like being fired or going out on a blind date could all be triggers that cause you to begin craving old behaviors. The important thing here is that you recognize these signs for what they are and then head them off before the relapse occurs.