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Relapse does not just come and go in one sweep. It isn’t one single event that can be reflected on or just one specific moment in time. Relapse is a process that slowly and gradually presents itself to an addict who is going through recovery. There are three main stages of relapse: emotional, mental and physical.

Navigating the 3 Stages of Relapse

Emotional Stage – When you’ve entered into the emotional stage of relapse, you most likely don’t even know it’s happening. During this time, you may not be actively thinking about using. In this stage, a person may begin showing signs of anxiety, anger, defensiveness, isolation while picking up poor sleeping and eating habits. The withdrawal symptoms tend to be more psychological and emotional. You may find yourself reaching for the easiest thing to help cope with those stressful emotions, which tends to be the drug you are fighting so hard to stay away from. It’s important to reach out to your sponsor or a trusted person to help talk through these emotions. Out of all the stages of relapse, Emotional triggers can often be the most difficult to fight, so having someone you can call for support is crucial.

Mental Stage – The mental stage of relapse may cause your mind to be pulled hard in two different directions: using and not using. During this stage, it’s common to find yourself glorifying the days behind you and wishing you could relive the times before recovery began. Maybe you end up spending time with people from your past and have accepted the fact that relapse will be a part of your recovery journey. These internal battles of the mind are often hard for an addict to recognize themselves, making the warning signs much blurrier than the signs of the other two stages.

However, if you find yourself experiencing anything similar to the warning signs of the mental stage of relapse, know that you have places to turn for encouragement and help. Call someone you trust to help talk you through your urges and temptations. Often, talking things out with someone else can help remind you of what made you determined to stop using in the first place. Instead of thinking about every single day, try thinking about the present moment.  Take your recovery one day at a time instead of overwhelming your mind with the thoughts of unforeseen future.

Physical Stage – It isn’t uncommon, though, for the techniques used in stage two to not work for every single person. Some people may give into their temptations instead of fighting the urge to use. This is where the physical stage comes in. If you or a loved one has found themselves in the physical stage of relapse, know that there are steps that can be taken to get yourself or your loved one right back on track.

Spend your time with the right people— those who will encourage you rather than feed into your temptations to use. Don’t fight your emotions, and instead, recognize where they stem from. Guilt is a normal feeling at this stage, so is frustration. While these emotions are never welcomed or pleasant, if you take the time to understand where these emotions are coming from, it will help you remember why you stopped using and push you further down the road to recovery.

Addiction Recovery Resources

There is always somewhere or someone to reach out to when you see the warning signs of relapse in yourself and your behavior. A recovery coach is an excellent person to confide in and seek help from. They will encourage you and talk through your emotions and thoughts.

Relapse doesn’t happen suddenly or by accident. It’s a process and as such can be prevented when warning signs are recognized, and preventable steps are taken to do so. Sober Houston is an addiction recovery resource that can help prevent relapse from happening during your addiction recovery journey. Contact Us for more information on how to recognize the warning signs of relapse and take steps toward prevention.


See also: 3 Ways to Tell if a Slip is the Beginning of Relapse