Navigating Relapse in Recovery

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Navigating Relapse

The threat of relapse is a pervasive thought that can cloud your mind, starting from those initial painful withdrawal symptoms during detox and continuing throughout recovery. While unfortunate, relapses are a common occurrence in recovery, and there is no simple way to cast aside urges, cravings, or reminders of active addiction.

Creating a relapse prevention plan as early as possible in recovery is essential for mitigating the chances of succumbing to these detrimental setbacks. However, experiencing a relapse does not mean it is the end of your recovery journey or indicates that you are somehow beyond reprieve. Navigating these experiences and returning to the basics of recovery is essential for reclaiming your life and refocusing on goals set out for yourself.

Understanding the Threat of Relapse

Urges, cravings, and the threat of relapse are unfortunate but common experiences. It is important to embrace the need for dedicated relapse prevention strategies from early on in your recovery. It is crucial that you continue to build upon these strategies while navigating every stage of recovery.

Relapse does not have a dedicated end date or become less threatening once you have made it through detox. Remaining vigilant against the threat of relapse is essential for maintaining an active change in your ideas and attitudes.

Overconfidence in your abilities can also lead to overlooking red flags that may be signaling weaknesses in your program. While it is important to celebrate and champion successes throughout the recovery journey, it is also important to continue developing your tools used to combat urges and invasive thoughts. This can mean reaching out to others in recovery, reading recovery-based literature, or attending a 12-step meeting.

Urges, Cravings, and Relapse

Knowing how to handle a relapse also means understanding what a relapse is and how it differs from urges or cravings. Urges and cravings are common throughout recovery and involve an intense impulse or desire to reengage with addictive substances, either as the result of a particular trigger or seemingly out of thin air. However, they do not mean that an individual must act on these urges. Simply feeling the urge to reengage does not indicate that you are going backward in your journey.

Enacting proper coping strategies and grounding techniques can allow these feelings to pass in time. Marking successful navigation of these intense urges is cause for celebration and praise. Remember, you do not have to make a permanent decision on a temporary feeling.

Relapse is almost always precipitated by an emotional response to a situation, permitting you to justify and rationalize the act of using again. These behaviors are indicated by a reversion to self-destructive patterns, often characterized by isolation, manipulation,  or by the need to hide or justify your use.

These relapses are painful, demoralizing, and dark, which necessitate an immediate return to recovery and evaluation of the safest and most effective environment to begin prioritizing your recovery again. It is important to remember that there is no shame in relapse.

Relapse Doesn’t Mean Starting Over

When a relapse happens, you can feel as if you are returning to the start of their journey all over again, as if all prior knowledge of how to stay clean has been washed away. However, this is not necessarily the case. Your relapse does not mean that all knowledge of the coping or grounding strategies learned so far has been wiped from your memory. Rather, it indicates the need to return to recovery to build on these already established techniques.

You may be able to refocus and prioritize goals on your current stage of recovery, working with groups and professionals in an intensive outpatient setting. Perhaps you may need to return to sober living to ensure you remain in a safe environment while analyzing what holes were left in your program that lead to the relapse.

Returning to these phases of recovery does not mean you are beyond recovery, it simply indicates the need for a more rigorous application of tools to prevent relapse again in the future. It is important to be open to returning to residential or sober living facilities to address your relapse.

All that being said, detox is still the first step. Removing these traces of toxins from your body is just as essential as learning new coping strategies. New ideas cannot be grafted onto a closed mind, especially if it is clouded by substances. Relapses are difficult and stressful experiences, but as long as you make it back, there is still hope. This experience opens the door for a return to recovery with the skills, perspective, and willingness to overcome your recent setback as you continue on your journey towards a sober, healthy future.

Relapse prevention is an essential part of recovery, and being prepared for the threat of relapse can help you continue to navigate the difficult recovery journey. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and are looking to take your first steps towards a healthy future, or have experienced a relapse and want to continue developing your recovery toolkit, Avalon Malibu can help you today. We offer programs throughout each stage of recovery, from detox and residential treatment to partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient care, all ready to meet you where you are in your recovery journey. Your time with us can be personalized based on your unique needs and goals with writing and art therapies, individual and group sessions, physical activities, massage, nutritional guidance, and even a seasonal ropes course. For more information on how we can individualize your time with us, call to speak with us today at (844) 857-5992.

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