We all want to feel like we have a hold on our addiction. We try to do everything right. We avoid people, places, and things, go to the meetings where we feel comfortable, and work through the steps with a sponsor. Unfortunately, no matter what we do, life is going to happen. We will be triggered, and we aren’t always going to be working our program perfectly. To avoid relapse, it's essential to learn the early warning signs that we might be closer to picking up than we’d like and how to walk through those signs in a healthy way. When thinking of relapse, we often think of the part where we pick up and start using again, but just like everything else, there are phases we can look out for before we pick back up. Relapse begins with our emotions, then it becomes mental and, finally, physically, putting the substance into our bodies. These phases can be very gradual and hard to spot if you aren’t looking for them and adequately dealing with each stage as it comes.
Phase 1: Emotional
Emotional relapse often happens before we even consider picking up a substance. This phase can manifest in many different ways. We could notice that we are becoming angry by situations that generally wouldn’t bother us; it could be that you are noticing that you feel anxious more often than is typical. We could even begin to start eating and sleeping in ways that don’t feel healthy. These could all be signs that you are beginning to slip down into emotional relapse, but the only way we can realize that we are slipping is by motoring our emotions. If you notice these, get connected to your support group. Verbalize the way you feel to people you trust. Consider meditation to quiet your mind and calm down or, physical exercise can be a healthy way to let out a lot of emotions.
Phase 2: Mental Relapse
Most people in recovery have two parts of their brains that are constantly at war. One part is the part of the brain that wants to remain sober and continue to lead your life in such a way that you can look back with pride and contentment at all of your achievements. On the other hand, there is also the part of the brain that misses the old life. This part of our mind tends to forget all of the harm we caused others; all of the pain we put ourselves through and tends to focus on the good times. Everyone in recovery struggles with this, but when your thinking shift and the part of your brain looking back on those memories fondly takes the steering wheel, you’ve slipped into mental relapse.
If you notice mental relapse happening, it's time to fight harder than ever. Try and remember how dark active addiction was. “Play the tape forward’ and think about what your life would look if you went back into active addiction. Talk about it with your sponsor, your support group, your dog, your cat, anyone who will listen and listen to their suggestions and let them help you.
Phase 3: Physical Relapse
Physical Relapse is what most people probably imagine when they hear the word relapse. It is the action of actually consuming any form of mind-altering substance. Even just using one time can bring all of the old cravings back. Without help, often time, people find themselves exactly where they left off, which can be deadly. Our bodies aren’t used to consuming drugs and alcohol the way we used to, so it’s very easy to take too much and find yourself hospitalized or even dead.
If you find that you have physically relapsed, it’s not too late. It’s going to be easier to get help early on, rather than waiting until things get bad again. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you trust. Going back to treatment might be the best option. It’s never a sign of weakness. You now are that much more educated about your disease and have better ideas of what to look out for.
Recovery is not something that everyone gets on the first try. Relapse is a part of many recovering addicts' stories, and if it happens, there is no shame in starting over. Of course, we want to save ourselves from being dragged through all of that pain and torment, if possible. The best way to avoid relapse is to be aware of these early warning signs and to take appropriate action when they come. The most important thing to remember is that this a team sport and we all have to work together to have long and happy sober lives. Get a group of other sober people to walk through life with, avoid triggers, and always be aware of your mental health and keep pushing forward.
Steamboat Springs, located in the Rocky Mountains, provides a setting for the natural stimulation of mind and body, allowing for a return to our innate senses and a new foundation from which to build. Foundry Treatment Center’s vision was formed through personal experiences and continues to grow through the dedicated compassion of the Foundry team. We share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at 1-844-955-1066.