Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash


Written By: Synonymous

Addiction is a chronic disease that cannot be cured. It never goes away. Maintaining a life in recovery is often an everyday struggle, and it must be dealt with on a daily basis. The longer an individual is in recovery, the easier it can be to deal with the disease of addiction, but the occasional craving does happen, so it can be dangerous when a person who is an addict gets complacent or comfortable in their recovery. Oftentimes, they begin to stop working on their recovery and this could backfire on them and they begin working on their next relapse. Once relapse occurs, it is difficult for the addict to get back onto the road of recovery because the desire to continue using can be overpowering.

Individuals that are recovering from any kind of addiction often experience at least one relapse, and this can be especially dangerous for someone who has abstained from using drugs for ANY length of time because that individual loses their tolerance for the drug and may end up taking the previous accustomed amount that they consumed at the height of their addiction and the end result could result in an overdose or even death.

Know the Stages of Relapse

Stage One: Denial –The addict pretends that everything is okay.

Stage Two: Avoidance and Defensive Behavior – The addict avoids thinking about their own situation and starts focusing on others. The addict starts being defensive or starts lying when questioned about things in their past or present. They may also start to feel lonely, even though they are surrounded by people.

Stage Three: Depression – Feeling lonely or left out, addicts may start feeling depressed and start developing irregular eating and sleeping patterns. When an individual starts to feel more and more lethargic, they may start abandoning daily responsibilities by making plans and not following through with them; therefore, isolating themselves further from others.

Stage Four: Behavioral Loss of Control – As the addict’s depression progresses, isolation becomes more prevalent. The addict will begin to skip group support meetings or after-care treatment meetings; therefore, they stop caring about recovery or anything else happening in their lives. Beginning to feel powerless, or helpless, starts a spiral effect of turning to other things not recovery related to make themselves feel better. The addict turns to destructive-type behavior not conducive to a healthy lifestyle, thinking that this destructive behavior will not hold a serious consequence.

For example, overeating, sleeping too much, turning to the opposite sex for validation, or turning to anything, in general, to dull or numb the pain of everyday life and everyday problems. This eventually leads to fear, anger, resentment, and eventually a total loss of control where finally the physical relapse occurs.

Stage Five: Physical Relapse – Once the addict consumes the substance of their choice, by using just that ONE TIME, it can result in INTENSE cravings and the UNCONTROLLABLE desire to continue to use. At this point, an intervention is necessary for the addict because the disease has taken over again. The addict begins to feel even more lonely, even more stressed out, and even more unfulfilled, and they begin to think that their future is hopeless, that they are unworthy of others. This downward spiral of physical relapse brings shame and guilt resulting in a relapse heading into days, weeks, or even years, of uncontrollable using.

By letting the addict know that it is not the end of the world, that they can get themselves back on track, is vital to convincing an addict to seek help by going to meetings, calling their support network, or maybe even admitting themselves into a treatment program.

Warning Signs that a Relapse is Occurring

It is easy for an addicted individual to only remember the positive parts of their drug use; thereby romanticizing their past experience, and then war-storying about them and forgetting all the anguish it may have caused them. Addicts change their people, places, and things in order to recover, but once they start revisiting their old relationships that they were involved with during their drug use and romanticizing their past experiences, it becomes harder and harder to stay on the path of recovery and relapse becomes inevitable.

After depression starts to set in, an individual will begin to avoid their interests and hobbies that they developed in recovery. The depression then gets worse with their increased isolation and avoidance of their support system. The individual may then start speaking negatively about the recovery process and start looking down on those individuals in recovery. This is a sure indicator that they are on their way to relapse

What an Individual Can Do if

They Feel They are in Relapse Mode

Don’t act impulsively. Wait for approximately 30 minutes and try to distract yourself by thinking or doing other things, like watching a television show or taking a walk or calling someone in your recovery network, like your sponsor or another friend in recovery. Passing the time this way can help diminish the craving of wanting to use, and when practicing this method, the cravings may start to go away quicker and easier.

Thinking about the actions and consequences of just using that one time is also a good distraction. Playing the scenario through to the end of the consequences of relapsing, such as the inability to stop using once started, the shame and guilt, and the rock bottom you will hit, if not the same one, then a deeper rock bottom.

Stay in today, one day at a time. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Pray to your Higher Power. Many people with years in recovery still struggle one day at a time. You are not alone. Thinking of recovery in terms of length can be too overwhelming for an individual that is fresh in recovery. They get intimidated or overwhelmed and end up relapsing.

If you are having a hard time with living in recovery one day at a time, try living in recovery one minute at a time. By living this way, you will surprise yourself how your time in recovery adds up, day by day, month by month, then year by year.

Boredom is a trigger for many individuals. The following are things that you can do to keep yourself on the right track in recovery to keep yourself from staying too much in your head and letting your disease fester, ultimately causing a relapse.

Things to Do in Recovery That Can Help

Keep You on the Right Track

  • Arts and Crafts - Expressive hobbies such as music, dancing, painting or sculpting, writing, or any creative type of craft that your brain can think of, are great coping methods and serve as an outlet for frustration or anger or depression.

  • Entertainment - Watching television or physically going to the movie theater or attending any type of show is a good way to enrich your mind and stay away from any negativity that you may be experiencing.

  • Social Activities/Games/Sports - Although, it’s important to be social, it is more important to socialize with the right people. Playing board games, along with social activities through games like sports, are a positive way of not only distracting your mind, but also by getting the exercise your body needs and getting the socialization that your mind needs at the same time.

  • Become Useful - Getting busy doing chores around the house, or starting or finishing a project around the house, is a great way to keep your brain preoccupied​.

  • Reading - Reading is another way to keep your brain occupied and to expand your mind.

  • Volunteering - By volunteering, this activity helps you while you help others.

Remember that relapsing doesn’t mean failure in your recovery, it can also mean growth, but what you decide to do after relapsing determines your future. Allow yourself to feel your feelings. After all, they are YOUR feelings. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to someone. Let someone know how you are feeling, what you are thinking. Talk about the reason you have relapsed, or if you haven’t relapsed, talk about the reasons that you FEEL like relapsing.

There is ALWAYS a way back into recovery. Recovery is a process. After all, all of those in recovery take life on life’s terms and take their recovery step-by-step, day-by-day. Surround yourself with positive influences and seek additional treatment, if needed.

Remember, it is part of our program to help those who are in need, especially when they are in relapse mode, but when you have done everything that you can possibly think of to help someone, and it doesn’t seem to be working, take a step back and continue to take care of yourself in order for you to keep YOUR recovery.

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