Relapses: They happen.
One thing’s for sure: if you’re in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and relapse, you’re definitely not alone. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates hover between 40%-60%. Relapses tend to occur early on in recovery; studies show addiction relapse happens during the first month of leading a treatment center.
So, relapses are common … but that doesn’t mean they’re inevitable. Learning about relapses and their triggers can help you move on after experiencing one … and how to avoid relapse in the future.
What are the Stages of Relapse?
Being around old friends still using substances, going back to old hangouts, and even depictions of substance use in media: Relapses have many different causes, and pinning them down to a particular addiction trigger can be very hard.
No matter the cause, relapses are not sudden. Instead, they evolve over weeks, months, and even years. During this time, relapses pass through a series of stages first. Here are three of them:
- Emotional relapse: The earliest stage of a relapse, it’s when we’re in emotional states that contribute to relapse, like anger, stress, anxiety and being tired. Emotional relapse doesn’t even involve thinking about drugs and alcohol, but they’re states that contribute to wanting to use substances again.
- Mental relapse: In this stage, we’re actively thinking about drugs and alcohol. They can be memories of old parties and hanging out with people we used to use with, too.
- Physical relapse: This is the active stage of relapse. We’re no longer thinking about using drugs and alcohol – we’re back to our old habits.
While physical relapse is the end of a relapse, it’s not the end for you and your recovery.
What Do I Do After a Relapse?
The thing to always remember is your recovery. Your relapse is a temporary misstep on a lifetime journey. So, your first step is to pick yourself up and recommit to your recovery.
Then, instead of thinking about your relapse, think about why you relapsed. Were there any triggers that caused you to relapse? Were you feeling angry or depressed? What else is going on in your life – and did it contribute to the relapse? Events that contribute to relapse don’t have to be bad and traumatic – it’s very easy to relapse during fun events, like a party or a beach bonfire.
It’s also possible to get overconfident in recovery, too.
Often, relapse is simply a sign you need more help in your recovery. If you attended a drug rehab, consider calling them up.
Addiction treatment centers can give you tools to resist relapse. Rehabs teach new, healthy habits, like establishing regular sleep and exercise times. They also use psychotherapy to provide healthy, reliable coping strategies to help deal with cravings and other recovery detours.
One useful tool which really helps us keep perspective is HALT. Like the name says, it’s an invitation to stop, think, and consider.
What is HALT?
HALT is an easy-to-remember acronym that describes some of the mental and physical conditions which cause us to engage in harmful behaviors. Being able to recognize these conditions – and the relatively simple solutions – is a great safeguard against relapse.
Let’s examine them:
- H = Hungry: Food is fuel for our bodies, and they work best when they’re well-fed with healthy, quality food. But hunger isn’t always a physical sensation. Hunger can be mental, too. Sometimes when we’re feeling hungry, it’s worth HALT-ing and asking ourselves what we’re really feeling? Are we hungry for food, or is it really acceptance, companionship, or understanding? A healthy support system is key to keeping us satisfied mentally and emotionally.
- A = Angry: Anger’s a normal thing to experience. It’s an appropriate emotion in some cases. However, anger is also a great time to HALT. Why? Anger can make us do things that are stupid and unhelpful. Anger can burn bridges, damage our reputations, potentially get us into serious trouble, and spark a relapse. The next time you’re angry, HALT and ask yourself why you’re angry. Consider doing something helpful; if you’re at work, leave your desk for a couple of minutes. Whatever you do, don’t rely on substances to control your anger.
- L = Lonely: Drug & alcohol addiction is a very isolating disease. If you’ve ever struggled with it, you probably know what loneliness is like. The worst thing about it is loneliness can be comfortable. For some of us, retreating into our bubble is easier than reaching out, even to people who really care about us. Having a good support network helps. Reconnect with people who care and want to see you thrive. Go to a meeting. Volunteering your time and talents is also another way to feel less lonely.
- T = Tired: Sleep helps us repair ourselves. When we’re being run ragged between meetings, work, activities, and more, it can be difficult indeed to find enough time to rest. Rest can be difficult indeed for those of us dealing with past traumas, PTSD, and other issues as well. Nevertheless, sleep and rest are important. Being tired isn’t just feeling sleepy, it’s a mental fog that slows us down and affects the way we behave and think. When we’re tired, we don’t think as well, cope poorly, and are much more susceptible to thoughts of old habits. If you’ve been feeling tired lately, it’s time to HALT and recharge yourself. Even a quick nap can be enough to keep you going a little longer.
HALT’s not a miracle cure, and it’s not intended for the comprehensive care you can get at an addiction center. What it is, is a good habit to fall into when you need a way out of the mental and physical states it describes.
There’s another great tool for resisting relapse: sober living homes.
Sober Living Homes Help Keep Recovery Successful
A sober living home is the ideal accompaniment to outpatient addiction care or even after you’ve left rehab. They play a crucial role in successful recovery for many people thanks to the drug-free, managed environment they offer.
It’s much harder to relapse in a space where there are no drugs or alcohol available. Plus, a sober home is full of people who share your new sober lifestyle and recovery goals – there’s simply no better way to be accountable to your recovery.
Finally, sober homes are run by house managers who often have an intimate understanding of recovery. Put together, a sober living home is an ideal place to recover from drug & alcohol addiction. Whether you’re in the outpatient stages of recovery or a recent rehab graduate, there’s a sober home out there for you.
Finding a sober living home to live in can be a pain, however. That’s why we developed SoberLivingNearYou.com. The internet’s largest directory of sober homes across the United States, our site is the perfect tool to help you find a sober home for your specific needs.
You can start your search today – just register and log on. Don’t risk a relapse – find your sober home today with SoberLivingNearYou.com!