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When talking about recovery, many people talk about relapse, too. With relapse often comes shame and guilt; however, relapse is a common part of the recovery process for some. The best way to look at relapse is to ask yourself, “Should someone stop recovering for exhibiting the symptoms they are being treated for?” You wouldn’t tell a patient with cancer not to go back to an oncologist after being in remission and experiencing a relapse. The same goes for substance use. Many people who suffer from substance abuse may relapse, as it’s not uncommon. However, the best way to handle relapse is to understand how and why relapse happens.

What Is a Relapse?

Relapse happens when a person returns to substance use after a time of abstinence. There are three stages of relapse:

#1. Emotional Relapse: During this stage, a person is not actively thinking about using drugs or alcohol. However, their emotions and behaviors may be setting them up for a relapse down the road. During an emotional relapse, individuals might bottle up their feelings, stop going to support group meetings, experience mood swings, and more.

#2. Mental Relapse: When the signs of emotional relapse go unnoticed, an individual is at an increased risk of experiencing a mental relapse. During a mental relapse, an individual is actively thinking about using drugs or alcohol; part of them wants to use, while the other part doesn’t.

#3. Physical Relapse: Physical relapse occurs when an individual begins using drugs or alcohol again.

The Feelings Behind Relapse

Often, when relapse occurs, an individual may feel like a failure and that all hope is lost. They may think that they don’t have what it takes to stay on the recovery journey and their perception of life starts to alter. However, it’s essential to understand that relapse does happen, and it can be a natural part of the journey for some individuals. In most cases, relapse occurs within the first year of the recovery process. However, it does not mean that the treatment is not working.

You can look at recovery like exercise. You go to the gym to boost up your metabolism and build your muscles. Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but with practice and motivation, you push yourself to do it on a day-to-day basis. However, there are going to be times that you don’t want to go and do the exercises it takes to be healthy and may skip out on a day or two. However, this doesn’t mean you will stop going to the gym forever. Although you skip out on a day or two, you will most likely go back. Like exercise, you may stumble in recovery, but you have the ability to pick yourself back up and get back on the path to sobriety.

Being Honest About a Relapse

The recovery journey can be challenging. It requires a significant life-altering change within those that seek abstinence. When you take comfort in understanding that relapse can happen, you can start being honest about it.

Relapse is a pattern behavior that some people fall into as a lapse in judgment. It should not get looked upon as a moment of weakness but more as a learning mistake. If you suffer from substance abuse and find yourself prone to relapsing, asking yourself why you chose the path of recovery and how you can accomplish it will initiate the honesty of your relapse. When you are honest about your relapse, you can begin anew and find your way to recovery once again.

Striving Towards The Life You Want

Relapse is not only about your willpower; it is also about how the brain functions. You have lived so long engaging in substance use, and while in treatment, you learn how to break the cycle of substance use. It is going to feel challenging, and you may feel pressure at times.

However, there is a way to break the cycle and strive towards a life that you want. When you identify that relapse is common and your mistake is not a failure but a learning opportunity, you initiate your bravery to continue your commitment. There are many ways to address relapse in treatment and outside treatment, like avoiding triggers or places where a substance was used or promoted.

When you look for healthier environments, you can strive closer to the life that you want, and you won’t feel tempted to relapse. You have the coping mechanisms and tools to handle situations and triggers. When you take full advantage of the knowledge and coping mechanisms you learned in treatment, you can prevent relapse from happening. However, when you fully understand the complexity of substance use and consistently try to make progressive steps through the process, the risk of relapse is lowered.

Moving Forward

At West Coast Recovery Centers, we believe that your experience is different from everyone else’s. As a result, your recovery journey is going to be different from everyone else’s, too. Therefore, it is vital to understand the recovery process and how to maintain your commitments with the support and resources that surround you. Relapse is a common lapse in the recovery journey, and it should not discourage you from continuously striving to become better.

It is essential to make sure you’re honest with yourself. You can step back and assess the circumstances and situation. You can ask yourself what went wrong and what stressors triggered the relapse. After you question yourself, you can then be honest with why you relapsed and how you can move forward from this point.

Relapse is a common part of the recovery journey for many people. You must be aware that the relapse is not a mistake on your behalf, just a mere bump in the road that will push you to identify triggers so you can handle them better the next time. Once you learn from the incident, you can take reasonable action to continue your recovery journey for a successful outcome. Many people struggle with feeling shameful, feeling like a failure, or even feel embarrassed by a relapse. However, when you identify the challenge and take full advantage of the guidance and resources in treatment, the risks of relapse in the future can be obsolete. If you or someone you love has relapsed and needs treatment, know that you are not alone. The professionals at West Coast Recovery Centers are here for you. To learn more, reach out to us at (760) 492-6509.

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