Relapse is a part of your recovery; what matters is that you dust yourself off and move forward again. It is a period of return of addiction after quitting or reducing it. Many people use to regard relapse prevention as an “event”, but it is not. It is a “process” and almost every addict who undergoes treatment is equally vulnerable to it. However, it is not confined to drug addictions only. It equally applies to other addictions including sex, gambling, or even food.
What is a Relapse?
It is a natural phenomenon that happens to almost every person undergoing addiction recovery. It occurs after some time of resistance to drug addiction. The duration of relapse involves severe temptation at first which is followed by a return of the addiction. Let’s make one thing clear right here. Never think that it is a sign of failure! The addiction is a severe mental disorder that changes the brain’s functions. Like other diseases, addiction also requires a complete recovery process and relapse is a part of it.
What are the Stages of Relapse?
If you want to understand the prevention techniques, it is important to know the stages of relapse. As mentioned earlier, it starts with temptation which means it begins weeks or sometimes months before the physical relapse. Following are the stages of relapse and a unique prevention technique is used at every stage.
- Emotional relapse
- Mental relapse
- Physical relapse
How Does Emotional Relapse Occur?
Emotional relapse only involves feeling tempted and setting up the mind for usage. At this stage, the person doesn’t use the drug, but only feels the urge to intake. The dominating symptoms of the emotional relapse are:
- Mood swings
- Poor eating habits (may involve increased or decreased appetite)
- Disturbed sleep
- Isolation and inability to express feelings
Since it is the first stage, it is the easiest to back out at this point. Once the person moves to the next stage, the desire to relapse gets stronger and becomes harder to resist.
What is the Early Relapse Prevention Technique?
Since the first stage is so overwhelming, it is important to understand the emotions first. After identifying, ask for help. Don’t deny the symptoms and don’t lie to yourself. Even though one sign is the refusal to ask for help and being defensive, you have got to work hard for yourself. Contact a psychiatrist and practice relaxation techniques. Remind yourself that you are under treatment and if you don’t stop yourself at this stage, you have to pay a higher price later. Talk to yourself and tell yourself the downsides of your addiction. You have got to take care and push yourself. No one can help you if you don’t help yourself.
What Happens in Mental Relapse?
The mental relapse is the second phase, and it is a stage of the war in your mind. It can be further subdivided into two phases. In the beginning, you “roughly think” about getting back to your addiction habit. As the time proceeds, you begin to “surely think” about it. Pulling yourself off becomes a difficult choice at this stage. The symptoms of mental relapse include:
- Idealizing and fantasizing your past usage
- Spending more time thinking about the things, people, and places you used to go
- Planning to relapse
How to Prevent Mental Relapse?
The moment you start thinking about relapsing, start admonishing yourself. Yeah, we know it’s weird, but believe it or not, it works. Every process begins with the first step. If you take one drink today, you will end up taking another tomorrow, one more the day after tomorrow, and the cycle goes on. Scroll down for the tips that can prevent you from the mental relapse.
- Call a friend and someone who has a calming effect on you and speak your mind out. It may seem useless but talking lessens the effect of negative thoughts bulging up your mind.
- Distract yourself with other positive activities. Go out for a walk, watch a movie, meet someone, or do anything that is possible for you.
- Take a deep breath and wait for half an hour before acting. The feeling seems to last an eternity but it usually lasts a few minutes only. So, avoid taking action when you are having urges.
What is a Physical Relapse?
It doesn’t take long to move towards the last stage i.e. physical relapse if you don’t follow the aforementioned prevention techniques. In simple words, physical relapse occurs when a person starts using the drug again. It takes a considerable amount of courage to go back from this stage but it’s not impossible. Try the following tips:
- Do something productive
- Play games, exercise, or paint
- Engage yourself in social activities
Marlatt and Gordon’s Relapse Prevention Model
Marlatt and Gordon proposed a prevention technique based on the social-cognitive psychology. They illustrated how both stable (tonic) and temporary (phasic) influences combine to stimulate relapse. The stable influences determine your vulnerability to relapse while temporary responses help in either causing or preventing a relapse. You can better understand the model through the following diagrammatic explanation
How to Plan a Relapse Prevention?
Seeking help from the following points while planning for the relapse prevention can be helpful. Avoid the places, people, and things that might trigger the relapse phase in yourself. If you have entered into relapse, generate prevention strategies for each of the stages and manage your cravings. It is very important to follow the prevention tools including family, exercise, counselors, and the rest mentioned above.
- Relapse prevention is not about following just one habit, but rather it’s a lifestyle you need to adopt. You have to follow the life improvement tips including your career, relationships, finances, hobbies, spirituality, etc.
- Going to a rehab center can also be very helpful in combatting relapse. Our Addiction Rehab Centers are always there to serve you. Try if you like!