The Stages of Relapse
Relapse is a process, it’s not an event. In order to understand relapse prevention you have to understand the stages of relapse. Relapse starts weeks or even months before the event of physical relapse. There are three stages of relapse:
- Emotional relapse
- Mental relapse
- Physical relapse
I. Emotional Relapse
In emotional relapse, you’re not thinking about using. But your emotions and behaviors are setting you up for a possible relapse in the future.
The signs of emotional relapse are:
- Mood swings
- Not asking for help
- Not going to meetings
- Poor eating habits
- Poor sleep habits
The signs of emotional relapse are also the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal. If you understand post-acute withdrawal it’s easier to avoid relapse, because the early stage of relapse is easiest to pull back from. In the later stages the pull of relapse gets stronger and the sequence of events moves faster.
II. Mental Relapse
In mental relapse there’s a war going on in your mind. Part of you wants to use, but part of you doesn’t. In the early phase of mental relapse you’re just idly thinking about using. But in the later phase you’re definitely thinking about using.
The signs of mental relapse are:
- Thinking about people, places, and things you used with
- Glamorizing your past use
- Hanging out with old using friends
- Fantasizing about using
- Thinking about relapsing
- Planning your relapse around other people’s schedules
III. Physical Relapse
It gets harder to make the right choices as the pull of addiction gets stronger. Physical relapse can be:
Slips: Brief and minimal self limited use that is not associated with addiction behaviors such as not fulfilling professional and personal commitments or lying, stealing which have no serious consequences;
Use: Moderate use over days that are harder to control, beginning to cause problems, need help to control but not associated with major addiction behaviors;
Re-Addiction: Uncontrollable use associated with serious addiction behaviors and professional and personal consequences.