Relapse, or return to drug abuse during or after treatment, is what many addicted people fear and quite a few people experience. But it is often mistakenly thought of as a quickly happening event, impossible to predict and successfully prevent.
What is important to understand is that relapse is a process. It consists of three stages and each of them has its signs and techniques to stop progress to the next one, concluding with another round of abuse in the end. These stages are emotional, mental and physical relapse.
Emotional relapse, the first stage of the process, is dangerous because at this period one doesn’t have any thoughts about drug usage. One simply can’t track any relapse signs down and, therefore, recognize what’s happening as relapse. On the contrary, drug abuse toxic experiences and consequences are well and alive in one’s memory, and there’s nothing one sincerely wishes to do as to avoid this occurring again. However, it is one’s emotions that prepare grounds for going down. The most obvious sign of emotional relapse is poor self-care. Bad eating and sleeping habits, escapism, avoiding focusing on one’s feelings and problems result into increased anxiety, frequent mood swings, personal isolation, ignorance of one’s own emotions, self-deception and loss of touch with reality. To stop relapse at this stage, one has to establish regular healthy diet, good night sleep and stay in touch with supportive others one can share one’s thoughts and feelings with. Otherwise, such a state leads to feeling of extreme discomfort that triggers thinking about using drugs to escape. This marks the start of the next stage, mental relapse.
Mental relapse is a struggle in one’s mind between sincere wish not to consume drugs anymore and take those to get rid of current hardness of one’s state. What is important to keep in mind here is that these thoughts do not mean one will surely relapse. It merely another indicator that the situation is getting more serious and immediate measures have to be taken.
Among other signs of mental relapse are thinking about everything and everyone connected to one’s addiction, like people, places, habits and rituals along with bringing some of those back into one’s life, intentional reduction of drug abuse consequences and lying to others and oneself, ending with actual planning of an abuse. To prevent those one must reverse one’s thoughts from deception about how insignificant one abuse is to what one can lose because of it and how hard it will be to pull oneself back from self-hatred, hopelessness and all other feelings one had after using a drug before.
Also, it is very useful to change one’s surroundings and seek for help at supportive people in one’s own circle of psychological support groups. This is vital to do as soon as possible, as crash to the final stage normally happens within an extremely short period of time and the more one waits, the worse things become.
In case the aforementioned measures are not taken, one crashes to the last stage, physical relapse. This one is often almost inevitable, as saying no to oneself at the moment one actually holds a drug in one’s hand is close to impossible if a person hadn’t managed to do anything of the things mentioned above. And that’s exactly the reason relapse happens.
But there’s another important thing to keep in mind. Even if one did relapse, relapse doesn’t mean failure! And to prevent another one happening, one has to just keep in mind knowledge about its three stages and prevent it at its first sight, during first or at least second stage.