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Understanding Relapse: What It Means And Why It Occurs

Relapse occurs after someone has stopped using and has begun a program of recovery. After the lack of contact with the drug, he or she begins using again, repeating the destructive patterns of addiction. Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon; sometimes individuals battling addiction can experience one or multiple relapses.

Factors like genetics, history of addiction within the life of the individual, and how one chooses to cope can also affect the likelihood of relapsing. In other cases, if someone has not gotten the adequate care needed via detox or treatment, he or she may relapse in attempts to gain control over that with which they are struggling. For example, if someone uses drugs to self-medicate and experiences challenges with their emotions and their mental health, he or she can relapse. If someone chooses to reconnect with friends who abuse drugs, or remains in harmful situations that are toxic or stress-inducing, they can relapse. Not practicing self-care or attending meetings that encourage accountability during recovery, or not committing to recovery can cause someone to relapse during times of uncertainty.

What To Do During Each Stage Of Relapse

Each stage of relapse impacts each individual differently. First, there are many stages of relapse that impact the mind, body, and spirit in varying ways. Emotional effects of relapse can include low self-worth, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame. It is important for individuals to have social support, and emotional support so they can avoid relapsing. Another activity to help is relaxing by exercising or attempting deep breathing. This will reduce stress. Researching about addiction and relapse prevention could provide more details for action. Connecting with sponsors or people who keep you accountable could provide the discipline needed.

Mental challenges during relapse can include self-doubt, obsessing over the chemical, thoughts of substance abuse, depression, feelings of worthlessness or suicide, feeling detached or disconnected, or beating one’s self up. Feelings of isolation or loneliness can impact one’s mental health as they make one feel alone and unloved. Finding the support of loved ones or being around people who value you and love you can help to offset such feelings or self-concepts.

Physical signs of relapse can be the most telling of someone who needs help. Weight loss, an unkempt appearance, slurred speech, alcohol on the breath, and a bloated stomach can indicate an unstable relationship with drugs as well as a relapse. At this stage, the individual needs medical help before it’s too late. Medically-assisted treatment can be a helpful step in gaining access to medications that reduce cravings and anxiousness. Furthermore, getting detox will provide individuals enduring relapses the care, emotional support, and medications needed.

Exploring Treatment Options After Relapsing

Attending treatment once a relapse occurs puts the individual in the best position to try and get sober. Fortunately, there are several treatment options that help someone gain access to hands-on care and provide necessary medications for recovery. There are several types of treatment that provide safety, recovery tools, and peer support for each individual’s needs. Moreover, the individual can select rehab for faith-based preferences; can choose to travel or stay local; choose a facility catering to specific genders, and select a facility considering specific age groups. Inpatient and outpatient rehab offers detox with hands-on care and the support of medical staff. Drugs for alcohol withdrawal like Librium and Benzodiazepines are administered to offset cravings and other side effects. Lastly, patients have access to peer groups.

Inpatient rehab allows patients to stay on campus and recover, with programs spanning from 30 days or longer, depending on their needs. Individuals who are committed to spending time on their recovery will benefit from inpatient rehab. Individuals wanting the flexibility to spend a few hours a day on campus while committing to other obligations can find outpatient rehab ideal. Additionally, outpatient rehab occurs in several varieties, such as day programs (5 to 7 days a week for many hours); intensive outpatient programs (milestones and measurable steps for progress-keeping) and continuing care (support groups that meet each week).

Practicing Self-Compassion And Try To Actively Seek Help

Due to the emotional fragility and vulnerability addiction creates which surfaces in early recovery, getting emotional support is vital. Relapses can create feelings of low self-worth and powerlessness. You may feel like a failure, may feel guilty, regret abusing drugs and feel helpless. Forming healthy relationships and gaining guidance from those who are knowledgeable may be best. Don’t beat yourself up; try to actively seek help. Admitting that you or a loved one is struggling is an empowering step in recovery and personal accountability.

Get Help Today

Reasons for relapses are just as complex as addictions since they occur for various reasons. Lastly, relapse does not necessarily indicate a lack of willpower, strength, or that treatment isn’t effective; relapse occurs when someone has regressed back into addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol addiction or has relapsed, contact a treatment provider today and explore your options for treatment.

  • Author: Krystina Murray | Last Updated: October 6, 2021

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    Krystina Murray

    Digital Content Writer

    Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University. She has over 7 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 17 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, cooking, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.

  • Medical Reviewer: Deborah Montross Nagel

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