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Warning Signs That You May Be Relapsing: How to Get Back on Track!

When a person admits that a drug misuse problem exists and seeks treatment, it is the first step toward recovery. However, life is not perfect. As someone who deals with a drug misses disorder reenters the real world, triggers and temptations may lead to relapse. Even when this occurs, it does not mean that sober life is impossible. It is essential to get back on the right track. Luckily, there are warning signs that relapse is occurring. Prelapse, the beginning of relapse, is an important time. Identifying this early stage allows a person to get the necessary assistance quickly.


Why Relapse Occurs

Treating addiction is tricky. An individual must go through a process of withdrawal and therapy. All of this is quite mentally and physically draining. Trying to quit without professional help is not always possible. Triggers and everyday temptations will always exist. There are a number of reasons why a person may relapse.

  • Recovery is Not a High Priority. Staying sober is difficult. Some people feel like a relapse is inevitable. However, these feelings make it easy to give up. Recovery should be a top priority at all times.
  • Little Support. Successful treatment can only occur when a large system of support exists. Family and friends must provide encouragement to remain on a sober path. During inpatient treatment, patients are involved with group therapy and other programs that bolster success. In the outside world, an individual should keep attending therapy and group sessions.
  • Low Motivation. The first step toward recovery is admitting that a problem exists. Without this gut feeling, it is not possible to enjoy a successful treatment. It is essential to understand the benefits of sobriety so that a person does not get caught up in the relapsing cycle.
  • Little Preparation. Inside a treatment facility, it is simple to follow the rules. However, many people are not properly prepared to reenter the real world. Many times, a person returns to the same situations that caused the drug misuse problems. It is vital to have a solid plan in place before leaving a treatment center. Certain unforeseen circumstances may lead to recovery problems. Some people decide to enter sober living communities for extra support throughout the transition back to real life.

Signs of Prelapse

To repeat, prelapse is a period of time at the start of relapse. It occurs well before drugs or alcohol enter the body. Although a person who has finished treatment wants to remain sober, nothing is sure in life. There is no cure for addiction. Therefore, it is essential to keep up the battle in the long term. When a person is beginning to step backward, there are certain signs that indicate prelapse is occurring.

  • Irritability heading to anger
  • Heightened dishonesty
  • Depressive behavior
  • Impulsiveness
  • Dissatisfaction with life
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor self-care
  • Loss of interest in therapy

Stages of Relapse

When a person progresses through prelapse, a total relapse is likely. Friends and family should be aware of the signs. The National Institute of Drug Abuse has noted that it is common for a person to experience at least one episode of relapse throughout the recovery process. Being able to identify the signs will help a person to get back on track.

Relapse is not just a once-and-done event. Instead, it is a process that has a few stages.

  • Emotional. Emotional relapse is the initial stage. A person usually begins to feel negative emotional responses like moodiness and angst. Also, he or she may begin eating and sleeping poorly. In other words, the desire for recovery lessens. It is essential to recognize that this stage occurs before a person knows a danger to sobriety exists.
  • Mental. Mental relapse is the next stage. Oftentimes, it entails a period of internal struggle. One part of the individual wants to remain clean. However, the other part is being drawn back to drugs or alcohol. The problem with addiction is that the urge to use always remains. When this phase occurs, thoughts to use are in full swing. Therefore, it is extremely challenging to avoid temptation.
  • Physical. Physical relapse is the final stage. It is the actual time when a person gives in to temptation and uses it again. As a person consumes drugs or alcohol, sobriety is officially broken. With one slip, a person may be back to dealing with intense cravings and an endless cycle of misuse. When this happens, it may be necessary to reenter treatment on a full-time basis.

Triggers for Relapse

To be sure, there are endless triggers that can cause a person to relapse. Commonly, depression is at the root of most issues. Depression leads a person to use drugs or alcohol to suppress negative feelings. Also, drug misuse may cause depression. This is a cycle that must be recognized.

Stress is another trigger for relapse. Studies have shown people often turn to drugs in order to mitigate stress. As a person is confronted with a stressful situation, it is a reflex to use drugs or alcohol as a crutch. Therefore, it is essential for people in recovery to learn ways to deal with stressful situations and to use coping mechanisms to get through tough times.

Exhaustion is another trigger. When a person is experiencing a lack of sleep, the body becomes disoriented. It makes an individual fall victim to self-neglect, which causes vulnerability to relapse. Recovery is difficult and requires full attention at all times. If a person is physically exhausted, it becomes difficult to focus on treatment and to think straight.

Finally, isolation may cause relapse as well. To repeat, a recovering individual requires a strong system of support, especially when feeling alone. To avoid relapse, it is essential to give loved one support and to encourage him or her to attend group sessions. Being around people who struggle with similar issues makes triggers less powerful.

Preventing Relapse

Recognizing that relapse is quite common means that a person must have a plan to prevent the urge to use again. As soon as a person feels an urge to return to bad habits, it is essential to seek help and to talk out the feelings. This is the basis for Alcoholics Anonymous. In this group, members have sponsors who are available during times of need. Sponsors offer encouragement and lend a hand to keep the person on a sober path.

Many people romanticize the situation and only think about the good feelings that result from using. However, looking at the entire picture will add perspective. A person must remember all the negatives that drug misuse brings.

When things turn severe, it may be necessary for a person to return to a treatment facility. Exiting the environment that causes triggers will help a person keep his or her head on straight. It reminds the person about the journey that he or she has started. Inpatient treatment is not always required. Outpatient services may be enough to get a person back on the right path.

How to Recover from Relapse

To emphasize, relapse is not the end. It is part of a process and must be addressed quickly. Relapse is not failure. However, it is a serious matter. Recovering from a relapse can occur only if a person can identify the causes of the backtrack. Focusing on the triggers allows a person to put safeguards in place to prevent future problems. Having information about personal warning signs gives better ammunition against problems down the road. A therapist can help a person develop a relapse prevention plan. Although there is no foolproof way to totally eliminate the possibility of relapse, a plan is a great tool and can raise the chances of enjoying a successful recovery in the long term.

Relapse is an unfortunate possibility during recovery. Understanding the different stages and symptoms of prelapse can help a person avoid the devastating pitfalls and can help the individual regain a sober mentality.


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