Identifying the Three Stages of the Addiction Relapse Process

The Three Stages of Addiction Relapse

Wellness Retreat on December 11, 2017

Addiction relapse happens often, and that is a scary thing for anyone who is in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse. After all, you have worked so hard to come this far, and the worst thing in the world that could happen is that something leads you right back to the dark path you have been trying so hard to stay off of.

The good news is that while relapse happens a lot, there are many things you can do to prevent it from happening to you. People who relapse often make a lot of mistakes that lead up to their relapse, and if you take care to avoid doing the same things, you’ll have a much better chance at staying sober. Examples of mistakes include not getting thorough treatment or cutting off treatment cold turkey, hanging out around old people, places, and things – ie: triggers, that remind you or using or drinking, and finally simply not wanting to genuinely live a sober life.

The Three Stages of Addiction Relapse

Another incredibly important thing to avoid messing up is knowing the three stages of addiction relapse. Also, knowing yourself and what might cause you to even begin thinking about a relapse in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot that happens in the mind of an addict before a physical relapse actually happens. Which brings us to the three stages.

The Emotional Relapse. In this early stage, often the thought of a relapse hasn’t even entered your mind. However, something that can easily lead you to drink or use drugs is happening. That may be an anxiety attack or a bout of depression. Or something may have happened in your personal life that brought you down. Often, at this stage, you’ll also do things like stop going to meetings, or not spend as much time focusing on your recovery. Without realizing it, you are setting yourself up for a possible relapse by weakening your recovery armor. The best thing you can do is ramp up your recovery efforts and catch yourself before you get to stage two.

The Mental Relapse. In this stage, you have begun thinking about using. Your mind has crossed over from no way I would do that to it is now a possibility. The addict part of you might be a devil on your shoulder telling you to use, which your recovered self is urging you not to. You might reach out to people you used to use or drink with, just to see how they are, but also to open the door to relapse if and when you want to. In this stage of addiction relapse, it is essential to talk to someone like a sponsor or addiction counselor asap. They will be able to get you the help you need to prevent you from reaching stage three.

The Physical Relapse. In this final stage, you actually pick up a drug or a drink and ingest it. You officially relapse. It is a scary place to be because of many reasons. Your risk of overdose is much higher because your tolerance is lower. Also, you are likely to feel a tremendous amount of guilt and shame which may cause you to continue using. Some people who relapse see it as a lesson and quit immediately after one time, refocusing on their recovery. Others may go down the same old road of addiction for months or more, some never even come back.

If you reach the stage of a physical relapse, don’t beat yourself up over it. Try to fix things as soon as possible by removing yourself from the situation and reaching out to someone you trust for help. Addiction relapse happens, and it is up to you to learn from it and move on, perhaps becoming even stronger in your recovery.