While relapse may come across as a negative, as a failure of addiction recovery, it is in fact the opposite. If you’ve progressed through a drug and alcohol rehabilitation programme, reaching the other side as a recovering addict, you’ve achieved your initial goal of becoming clean. However, long-term maintenance of a drug and alcohol-free life is another goal in itself.

A relapse can occur for many different reasons. From exposure to triggers post-rehab and stressful encounters to diverting from positive lifestyle choices, even the smallest slip can be classed as a relapse. Yet, a further factor which can ultimately influence a drug and alcohol relapse is the treatment you’ve completed, whether it’s been inappropriate, incomplete or a lack of personalisation.

It is important to understand the risk of relapse if you are a recovering addict, as there is a likelihood that you may experience one as part of your natural recovery lifespan.

It’s also vital to understand that your next steps will dictate your future with drugs and alcohol. Yet, you are human, mistakes can be made, and those mistakes can be reverted by acting accordingly post-relapse.

Here’s the ins and outs of drug and alcohol relapse to help you spot the signs, along with taking back control and seeing relapse as an occurrence that you can retrain. If you require support with relapse prevention, contact our team at Asana Lodge, addiction recovery specialists.


The stages of a drug and alcohol relapse

The term relapse is commonly linked to failure, to the resurface of substance abuse and its addictive tendencies. When in fact, there are three stages of relapse, dictating its severity and effect.

It is important to note that many individuals will face an emotional relapse, once vulnerabilities reappear post-rehab. Yet, it’s how you deal with that relapse and prevent further developments which will control your result with drugs and alcohol.

Support can be accessed whether you experience an emotional, mental or physical relapse. Please remember that you’ve overcome addictive substances before, and it can be achieved once again, yet with greater awareness, strength and experience.

Emotional relapse

An emotional relapse is where you’ll notice an emotional shift in your feelings. Here is where recovering addicts will likely hide away from others, they will bottle up their emotions, they will try to ignore their feelings towards drugs and alcohol. While physical consumption will not be an intention at this point, if uncontrolled, it can advance towards a mental drug and alcohol relapse.

Mental relapse

A mental relapse is a true battle between your sober life and the desirability of drug and alcohol consumption. Here is where recovering addicts will justify behaviours linked to drug and alcohol use, considering the idea of substance abuse, and reducing accountability to remaining sober.

Physical relapse

A physical relapse is where the emotional and mental impacts have taken their toll, resulting in physical consumption. This will usually result in ongoing consumption, or a stopping point for some, identifying that consumption has been the wrong answer.

While an emotional and mental relapse carry reduced consequences, they can reignite an addiction if uncontrolled. This is why relapse prevention for alcohol and drug problems is very important, from the offset, to minimise physical and psychological harm through addiction recovery.


Common triggers of relapse

If you are a recovering addict or know of someone who’s working through the addiction recovery process, it is important to be aware of common relapse triggers. While they can differ from person to person, especially when considering the initial causation of drug and alcohol consumption, there are some commonplace signs.

  • Exposure to old triggers, which are commonly environments, people or social situations. It is important to remember that associations can remain, even after therapy.
  • Peer pressure can be the case for some individuals, by surrounding themselves with those who also abuse drugs or alcohol.
  • Lack of support can revert negative feelings or mental health side effects, causing an emotional relapse.
  • A roller coaster of emotions can cause a relapse. As extreme highs can soon cause the deceptive desire to consume drugs or alcohol.
  • Stress is one of the most common triggers of relapse, as drugs and alcohol are used as coping strategies.

Again, triggers can deviate when considering relapse. This is why it’s important to take control of relapse and have a relapse prevention plan which works for you.


Taking back control after a relapse with these tips

If you do experience any degree of relapse, it’s time to take control. The first step is to acknowledge your relapse and reach out for personal support. Support can change your next steps, by reducing your chances of a physical relapse.

Secondly, embracing aftercare services, support groups and relapse prevention group therapies will be advised, helping you rebuild accountability and motivation around remaining sober. Thirdly, if you do experience a relapse, you’ll likely gauge the singular trigger. Removing yourself from drug and alcohol exposure and that exact trigger will help to reduce further risks.

In addition, it’s important that you have boundaries in place, that you follow a positive lifestyle, that you partake in self-care, and that you divert your attention back onto your addiction recovery journey.

By following these tips, overcoming drug and alcohol relapse can be possible. However, it is recommended that you also have a relapse prevention plan in place to act as a crutch in the event of exposure. This will include important helplines, your goals, your contacts for emotional support and your next best steps if you spot the signs of relapse.

While it’s easier said than done, if you are recovering from addiction, it’s important to avoid dwelling on relapse probabilities. However, you must be aware of their potential and how to move forward if a relapse does occur.

If you’ve experienced a drug and alcohol relapse, and are struggling to avoid ongoing consumption, further addiction treatment may be necessary.

Here at Asana Lodge, we can help you with this from our residential rehab facility, focusing on long-term drug and alcohol rehabilitation.


Raffa Bari - Author - Last Updated: 9 October 2020

Raffa Bari (Bsc, CertEd, CELTA, NLP Prac, BAAT) has an extensive background in addiction recovery, specialising in areas such as Integrative Art Psychotherapy (BAAT Registered) for addiction treatment.

Using her incredible dedication and passion towards personal transformation and recovery, Raffa has helped truly transform the lives of so many individuals.

It is this extensive knowledge and hands-on experience in everything to do with addiction recovery that makes her the perfect author for our site.

Raffa will be posting regularly with new updates and information on the latest industry topics to do with addiction and mental health.

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