Addiction Recovery

What is the Relapse Process?

By October 20, 2015 March 1st, 2016 No Comments
Grunge image of a depressed drug addict

Relapse is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary “1.The act or an instance of backsliding, worsening, or subsiding. 2. a recurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement.” When referring to addicts and alcoholics in recovery relapse is referred to as the process of that person going back to using drugs or alcohol. Signs of a relapse start long before the addict or alcoholic begins using again. During a relapse one will start to go through a series of emotional and mental issues before they finally find themselves in a place where they think they have no choice but to start using drugs or alcohol again. Once someone has made the decision to start their road to recovery avoiding a relapse must be their number one goal. The process of recovering from the disease of drug addiction or alcoholism is a process that must become a part of daily life. One must adjust their lifestyles once in recovery to help avoid a relapse, this can vary person to person but change is necessary.

Overcoming addiction and alcoholism is a very difficult challenge to try and overcome. When one enters recovery and begins to build a new life it can be a very exciting time. Family members will begin to find hope again that their loved one has turned a new leaf and is beginning to live a new and positive life. When that person starts to use again it can be very hard for loved ones to understand why that person relapsed. If that addict or alcoholic relapses they may not be able to give a reason for their relapse. Relapse doesn’t need to be part of recovery, but for some addicts and alcoholics it is.

How Does the Relapse Process Begin?


The relapse process is a series of problems that progresses and can ultimately lead to the use of drugs and alcohol again. These problems slowly start to have the snowball effect. When you first rolls a small snowball down a hill it will be moving slowly and can easily be stopped. As the snowball grows and begins to move faster and faster (a problem goes untreated) it becomes more and more severe. As the snowball begins to get bigger it gains speed as it gathers more snow (more problems and issues added in) it becomes harder and harder to stop. If this snowball continues down  As you can tell relapse is not a single event, it is a series of problems and events that when left untreated can lead to that person using again.

Stages of Relapse


There are three stages of relapse; emotional relapse, mental relapse and physical relapse. When someone is struggling with an emotional relapse they haven’t actually started using again but if their emotional state remains untreated it can lead to picking back up. Signs of an emotional relapse include; anxiety, intolerance, anger, increased defensiveness, mood swings, depression, isolation, falling out of support groups, bad sleeping habits and eating habits. If someone is struggling with one or more of these issues and isn’t working on improving them then their chances of using again is very high.

Mental relapse is when one begins to think about using again. There is a war going on inside the head of that person. One side wants to use drugs or alcohol again, the other does not. In the early stages it is a minimal thought that can come and go, but if that person doesn’t work on changing those thoughts it can become an obsession. During this stage people may think back on when they were active in their disease and glamourize their use. They may start thinking about people  that they used to use with and start hanging out with them again. They will fantasize about drinking or getting high again and may even start planning their relapse. As this progresses it will almost become impossible to stop without the proper help.

Physical relapse is when the person in recovery actually begins to use again. They are back to visiting their drug dealer on a daily basis or driving to the liquor store to feed their disease. Once the addict or alcoholic has reached this point an outside force is usually needed to get them back on the right road.

End the Cycle of Relapse with First Steps Recovery

It’s important for those in recovery not to give up after a slip or a relapse. Even after making a mistake, the journey of recovery isn’t over. At First Steps Recovery, we never give up on residents. If you feel you are at risk of recurrent relapsing, contact us today so we can help you create a diversion plan that will fortify your recovery and help you to sustain your sobriety long-term. Please call us today if you or a loved one are struggling, 1-844-BIG-STEP (1-844-244-7837).

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