The Process of Relapse

Relapse is not an event – it is a process. Many addicts do not even realize they are in danger of relapse before it is almost too late, and they find themselves face-to-face with a glass of wine or a bag of dope. However, although many recovered addicts are familiar with the pitfalls of picking up after a period of sobriety, relapse does not need to be a part of any journey into recovery – seeing as it is always preventable if caught early enough. The biggest and most crucial aspect of preventing relapse is knowing what personal signs to look for and change your behavior as quickly as possible.

Relapse Happens in Stages

Relapse tends to happen in stages. The first stage is emotional relapse – recognizing emotional relapse and immediately changing behavior is absolutely crucial to staying sober. Emotions that arise and cause discomfort should be looked at thoroughly, and as soon as you recognize a negative shift in the way you feel, be sure to take action towards changing that feeling to the best of your ability. Here are several signs of emotional relapse, and ideas regarding how you can take action to rapidly reverse your potentially dangerous emotional condition.

  • If you catch yourself isolating: Reach out! Formulating a solid system of sober supports is by far one of the most important parts of maintaining sobriety. This is also a major reason why getting a sponsor in early sobriety is so important! Make sure you carry around a list of numbers, people you know and trust and can call whenever you’re feeling lonely.
  • If you start to feel anxious: Practice relaxation techniques! Breathe deeply, count to 10, take a short walk outside and appreciate the fresh air. Practice any grounding techniques you may have learned in treatment. And again – reach out! Tell someone how you are feeling and listen to any advice they may have regarding how to calm yourself down.
  • If you feel exhausted: Give yourself a break! During your first year of sobriety (and every year of sobriety following) the most important job in your life will be staying sober – and it is no small task! Allow yourself to take catnaps when you need them, and make sure you always get your 8 hours at night.
  • You feel underappreciated: Reward yourself! Staying sober on any given day is a huge accomplishment, and you deserve to treat yourself once in awhile. Sign up for a yoga class or a painting lesson. Take a couple hours to simply relax and play your favorite video game, or eat an entire pint of ice cream to yourself.

Relapse Is Never Necessary

In the case of obvious behavior changes such as skipping meetings, simply start going to meetings and let someone know that you haven’t been to one in awhile. Remember – you are not alone. There are many recovered addicts and alcoholics who have either experienced relapse or successfully avoided it, and they would undoubtedly be more than happy to pass down the knowledge and insight they’ve gained.

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