Types of Relapse

The Three Types of Relapse in Addiction Recovery

Relapse is a fact of life for many individuals recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. This isn’t to say that recovery without relapse isn’t possible, but the National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates the relapse rate to be 80%, while other sources claim it’s even higher. The best preventative approach to relapse is recognizing the signs and the three stages of relapse that signal it’s time to get help. 

Three Stages of Relapse 

The common perception is that relapse occurs suddenly, triggered by a specific situation or craving, leading quickly to a breakdown. However, the reality of relapse is much more complex than this simple scenario. 

Addiction relapse tends to occur in three stages. Sometimes, it’s a slow build through these stages, but it’s also possible to travel quite quickly. Understanding these stages can help you identify them in yourself or your loved one and seek help before relapse occurs. 

Emotional Relapse 

Emotional relapse is usually the first of three types of relapse. At this point, drug or alcohol use hasn’t occurred, but there are shifts in mental health, personality, and behaviors that are paving the way for relapse to happen. 

You may also observe changes such as heightened feelings of depression and anxiety, or a sense of hopelessness. In these moments, the idea of turning to substance use might appear appealing. It can seem like an escape from overwhelming emotions. Additionally, it might feel like a way to avoid the challenges that come with maintaining sobriety. 

Overcoming Emotional Relapse 

Prioritizing yourself is key to overcoming emotional relapse. Here are ways to help:

  • Engage in regular exercise.
  • Focus on proper nutrition.
  • Ensure you get adequate sleep.
  • Make time for activities you enjoy.
  • Spend quality time with loved ones.
  • Reach out to your support network, addiction counselor, or mental health therapist to discuss your thoughts and feelings.

By addressing the early signs of emotional relapse, you can significantly lower the risk of progressing to physical relapse later on.

Mental Relapse

During a mental relapse, the desire to use drugs or alcohol becomes strong. It might become a preoccupying thought. At this stage, it’s typical to experience thoughts or desires to use drugs or alcohol again. There may even be a tendency to romanticize past substance use, including the feelings, people, and situations associated with it.

During a mental relapse, individuals often find themselves in a constant struggle, questioning, “Should I, or shouldn’t I?” They face a tough battle between their desires and what they know is right.

Temptation is particularly intense at this point, highlighting the importance of sharing these inner conflicts with a support group or addiction counselor. This support can help navigate through the mental turmoil and maintain progress on the path to recovery.

Overcoming Mental Relapse

Professional support is invaluable during this phase. Therapists and counselors specializing in addiction can provide the necessary guidance and coping strategies to manage cravings and conflicting thoughts. They can also help address any underlying mental health issues through therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is effective in changing harmful thought patterns.

A strong support network is vital during moments of mental relapse. This can include friends, family, support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, and peers who are also in recovery. Sharing your struggles and successes with others who understand can provide a sense of belonging and encouragement.

Physical Relapse 

Physical relapse is the actual use of addictive substances after a period of addiction recovery. Physical relapse happens when emotional and mental relapse become too overwhelming, and help needs to be sought. 

This phase might follow overlooked warning signs or unaddressed issues from earlier stages, such as emotional distress or rationalizing substance use. At this point, you should reach out for support. This could mean contacting a healthcare professional, reconnecting with a support group, or seeking assistance from addiction recovery services.

It’s important to remember that the road to addiction recovery is one that’s filled with all sorts of twists and turns, high points, and valleys. Relapse happens, but it’s not the end of the journey. It’s a detour, but the goal isn’t lost. 

Overcoming Physical Relapse 

Relapse is not failure, and it’s not a reason to give up. If you’ve experienced physical relapse, don’t dwell on it. Instead, reach out to the Massachusetts Center for Addiction and get the help you need. Addiction recovery is often a series of forward and backward steps. You just need to be willing to start again and keep moving forward. 

Take Charge and Regain Control Over Addiction

You’re not alone in your fight against alcohol or drug addiction. Some resources and treatments can help. Massachusetts Center for Addiction offers a range of addiction treatment options, including dual diagnosis for mental health care and medication-assisted treatment to reduce the risk of relapse. We’re here to answer your questions 24/7. Contact us at 1-844-486-0671.

MCA Staff
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