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What is the Best Way to Deal with Relapse?

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    April 29, 2022
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One thing many people either misunderstand or often forget, is that relapsing is a part of the addiction recovery process. That is not to say it should be ignored or praised, but it is important to note that it is a normal part of the journey. So, how do you deal with relapse? And what do you do after a relapse? Here will talk about all things on drug relapse and change the way we think about the addiction recovery process.   Introduction: While the act of a relapse may feel like a failure, it is possible to get back on the road to recovery. There are ways to handle these situations to create more insight for future relapse prevention. The most important thing to remember is that there is always support and resources to help you recover from your relapse and heal your addiction. Here we will discuss: 
  • The definition of relapse 
  • Stages of relapse 
  • Relapse risk factors 
  • What to do right after a relapse 
  • How to know if you need to seek treatment again 
  • Treatment options after a relapse 

Definition of Relapse

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, a relapse is when someone has stopped maintaining their goal of reducing or avoiding using drugs or alcohol and returns to previous levels of use. The drug of choice and the severity of use will vary from person to person and does not change the classification of a relapse.    The addiction recovery process is not linear, and it is an ongoing journey that takes dedication and time. Although relapses are considered a step backward in this process, it does not mean you cannot still seek the help you deserve. 

Stages of Relapse

While it may seem as though relapse is a quick and impulsive event, this often isn’t the case. There are three stages that may happen, leading to a relapse: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse.  three stages of relapse
  1. Emotional relapse: The individual is behaving in ways that could potentially lead to using again. Examples of this include bottling up emotions, not attending therapy or support groups, isolation, poor self-care, etc. The individual might not necessarily be considering a relapse, but these problematic behaviors are likely to lead to one. 
  2. Mental relapse: The individual has now begun thinking about using drugs or alcohol again. This stage has been described as “a war inside the mind” as the individual goes back and forth from wanting to use to not wanting to. When a person is in this stage, their resistance to drug use diminishes and they are likely to relapse. 
  3. Physical relapse: The individual uses drugs or alcohol and has stopped maintaining their goals for avoiding drug use. 
  Each person is different and may experience a different process before relapsing. It is important to be aware of the stages and learn relapse prevention skills and techniques to avoid reaching the physical relapse stage. 

Relapse Risk Factors

There are many different reasons someone might deal with relapse, but what are the specific risk factors? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the relapse rate for those in addiction recovery is as high as 40-60%. Therefore, by simply being a recovering addict, you are at high risk for relapsing. Poor mental health or mental health disorders are another risk factor associated with relapse. Personal, professional, or relational issues are all considered risk factors for relapse.    There is no definite answer for determining when or why someone may deal with relapse, but we must remember that help is always available. 

What to do Right After a Relapse

A person might feel extreme negative emotions after dealing with a relapse. They may feel shame, guilt, anger, embarrassment, etc. Oftentimes, the feeling of helplessness is associated with relapse, causing the individual to continue to use rather than seeking help again. But a relapse does not mean you cannot continue to work hard for your sobriety.    If you have relapsed, talk with someone you trust about it, or better yet, contact a treatment center to receive proper help. Often, when a person deal with a relapse, there is more going on in the mind, than just simply using drugs. A treatment center can help you recognize and identify triggers and develop coping skills for relapse prevention. 

Do I Need to Go Back to Treatment?

You do not have to relapse in order to go back to treatment. If you are having thoughts of using drugs or alcohol again, or are having mental health issues, seeking treatment may be the best option to avoid a possible relapse. The mental health professionals can help you remember why you are living a drug-free life, and help you identify the tools and coping skills that keep you away from using drugs or alcohol. If you are struggling in any way, seek help before a possible relapse occurs.

What Are My Treatment Options After a Relapse?

Anyone working in the mental health and addiction profession is fully aware that relapse is just a part of the recovery process. Just because someone has relapsed does not mean they are not welcome back into treatment. Treatment options after a relapse will look the same as they would for someone who is in recovery for the first time. Inpatient and outpatient rehab centers will welcome anyone wishing to recover from their addiction, regardless of if they relapsed. 


Recovering from an addiction is a long journey and it will look different for each person. Relapse is common and unfortunately to be expected with most recovering addicts. Luckily, those in the addiction treatment world know just how challenging it is to maintain sobriety. The qualified and highly trained staff at Lion Recovery know that relapse is normal for recovering addicts.    If you or a loved one are seeking help with your addiction, contact Lion Recovery today at (888) 616-3179 to start your journey to a drug-free life.
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