Most view relapse as the end of their recovery or as a point from which they need to start over. However, relapse is a common and often expected part of addiction recovery. Relapse occurs often and can be a difficult and frustrating experience, but it does not mean that recovery is impossible or that you have failed. Instead, it’s an opportunity for you to learn from your experience and make changes to your recovery plan to prevent future relapses.
What Is Relapse?
Relapse is a common and often expected part of addiction recovery. Relapse is not the end of recovery. Rather, it is part of the recovery journey. You are neither guaranteed to relapse nor avoid relapse.
Regardless, relapse is an unwelcome experience. Still, it does not mean that recovery is impossible or that you have failed. Again, it’s an opportunity for you to learn from your experience and make changes to your recovery plan to prevent future relapses.
Why Relapse is Not the End of Recovery
One reason why relapse is not the end of recovery is that addiction is a chronic condition. Like other chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, addiction requires ongoing management. This means that you may experience setbacks and relapses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to work toward recovery.
As stated above, relapse can be a learning experience. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology reported that individuals who experienced a relapse had better long-term recovery outcomes if they viewed the relapse as a learning experience and used it as an opportunity to make changes in their recovery. This is as compared to those who viewed the relapse as a failure.
Relapse can provide valuable insights into your triggers, weaknesses, and strengths. It can also help you to identify areas of your recovery plan that need to be adjusted. For example, you may need to find new coping mechanisms to help you handle triggers, or you may need to increase your level of support in the home or out of it.
It’s important to remember that recovery is a process, and it’s not a linear one. It’s not uncommon for people to experience setbacks and relapse. With the right support and resources, you can get back on track. Relapse should be considered a sign that something in the recovery process needs to be adjusted rather than the progress you’ve made being scrapped and considered null.
Know the Signs of Relapse
Still, relapse prevention planning is an important step in the recovery process. It’s important to have a plan in place for how to manage triggers and cope with cravings. Your plan should also identify the warning signs of a relapse. Even though relapse is a normal part of recovery, it is best to avoid it or minimize it where possible. Knowing the warning signs will aid in this process. These signs include:
- Increased stress levels
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Increased cravings
- Neglect of responsibilities
- Spending time with old friends who use drugs/alcohol
- Resuming old habits or routines associated with drug/alcohol use
- Avoidance or denial of past addiction experiences
- Decreased self-care or physical appearance.
If you notice that you are experiencing any combination of the above, reach out to your support network. It may be possible to avoid the frustration of relapse through preventative measures such as talking with a friend or making a safety plan with your counselor. Other prevention and management options include group therapy, which allows you the support of peers sharing in your experience under the supervision of a mental health professional. These and more options are available through treatment centers such as West Coast Recovery Centers.
Have a Plan for Relapse Prevention
Having a plan in place for relapse prevention will help decrease the frequency and severity of relapse. This plan can include strategies such as avoiding high-risk situations, developing a support network, and seeking professional help.
As mentioned above, another important aspect of relapse prevention is having a support system in place. This can include friends, family, and professionals who can provide guidance and encouragement as you work towards your goals and identify and manage triggers. It will also provide you with a source of accountability and support in showing yourself compassion. Individuals that experience a relapse have better long-term outcomes if they seek additional support and treatment after relapse.
Moving Forward After Relapse
So, you’ve relapsed. What next? Having a plan for how to move forward after relapse is just as important as knowing the signs for relapse prevention.
Some tips for moving forward include:
- Acknowledge and accept the relapse
- Seek support from a therapist or support group
- Re-commit to sobriety and establish a new plan for recovery
- Identify triggers and avoid them
- Practice self-care and engage in healthy activities
- Reflect on what led to the relapse and address underlying issues
- Seek additional treatment or support if necessary
- Surround yourself with positive influences and people who support sobriety
- Stay accountable and track progress
- Forgive yourself and maintain a positive outlook on the future
Seeking support can’t be stressed enough, and one excellent way to receive structured and meaningful support that will help you put the above into play is through an addiction recovery program. A good addiction treatment program, such as those offered at West Coast Recovery Centers, will help you with every step of relapse prevention and recovery. Our programs offer group and individual therapy as well as an array of holistic therapy options, including nature therapy and mindfulness-based practices.
Above all, be patient and forgiving with yourself, and remember that progress often involves setbacks and challenges along the way.
Relapse occurs often and can be a difficult and frustrating experience, but it does not mean that recovery is impossible or that you have failed. Instead, it’s an opportunity for you to learn from your experience and make changes to your recovery plan to prevent future relapses. An effective addiction treatment program, such as those offered at West Coast Recovery Centers, will help you with every step of relapse prevention and recovery. Our programs offer group and individual therapy and an array of holistic therapy options, including nature therapy and mindfulness-based practices. If you or someone you know is ready to take the next steps in their addiction recovery or to manage a relapse, call (760) 492-6509 today.