The Stages of Relapse

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Even the most hardworking people in addiction recovery find themselves in sticky situations, including relapse. There will be moments in life where it feels like a relapse isn’t as pressing as it really is – and then, when it happens, those in recovery quickly realize that they’ve gotten off track.  

Those that are in recovery and take their addiction seriously can also find themselves struggling for sobriety in moments when it feels like everything is falling apart, and, in some cases, even when everything is going really well. Studies explain that relapse occurs when a person stops working towards achieving their goal of reducing substance use or of sobriety, and so they return to using again.  

If you’re at the beginning of your recovery journey, or even if you’ve been working towards sobriety for some time, it’s important to understand that relapse can occur – but with the right tools and resources provided at Avalon Malibu, you’ll find yourself back on the road to recovery. 

Addiction is a brain disease, and to those on the outside looking in, the issue seems simple: if a person has an addiction, they should simply quit. One of the most debated questions in addiction recovery is whether or not relapse is a personal moral failure or just a part of recovery. The reality is that drugs and alcohol affect the brain’s reward center, which involves dopamine, a chemical that, when released in excess amounts, leads to feelings of euphoria. From there, the addiction directly changes the brain’s chemical structure, and even in recovery, the brain will still try to revert to the behavior it had when a person was still abusing substances.

Even on a basic human level, changing habits of behavior is hard. There are so many self-destructive behaviors that humans get into, such as eating unhealthily, not exercising enough or over-exercising, smoking and much more. All too often, humans tell themselves they’ll stop pursuing a dangerous habit, only to find themselves doing it again within a few days. Change is hard – and that’s part of why relapse can happen sometimes.  

For those in recovery, a relapse often happens when a period of that uncontrollable urge arises; relapse is truly a normal process because the mind, body, and spirit are adjusting and it will take some time for a person to become used to what’s happening. Take a look at the stages of change that tend to coincide with addiction recovery and relapse:

Stage 1: Precontemplation – It’s hard for a person to comprehend that they have a problem, and they really don’t feel the need to seek out help.

Stage 2: Contemplation – a person is ready to stop feeling so “stuck”, but they’re having difficulties understanding the causes of the problems they’re experiencing. This is when a variety of emotions may arise, such as fear, excitement, etc.

Stage 3: Preparation – when a person is at this stage, they’re starting to feel ready to make a change, and they’re talking about it with others.

Stage 4: Action – at this point, the greatest commitment of time and energy take place and changes are more visible in that person’s life.

Stage 5: Maintenance – those who’ve completed official treatment but continue to take part in recovery-related activities will find that maintenance is needed in order to remain sober. 

Stage 6: Relapse (optional) – devastating situations in a person’s life, along with various periods of over-confidence, depression and other difficult moments can cause a person to fall back into old patterns of addiction.

If you’ve recently relapsed, it’s better to approach the situation with a sense of positivity. Relapses can provide a lot of lesson learning and there is so much that you can gain from this experience; in many cases, it’s an opportunity to learn and strengthen healthy coping mechanisms. A part of healing could be identifying what led to the relapse, including what people, places, and emotions cued for it to happen. Once we learn of what caused us to have this urge, we can start taking proactive steps to ensure that those things do not affect us as heavily next time. 

At Avalon Malibu, individuals can speak with a therapist to explore different reasons for why their relapse occurred, or can even discuss relapse in group therapy; for those in addiction recovery, this mode of treatment can help people to not only talk about their lived experiences but can open up the platform to learn from others, too. From there, a specialized treatment plan can be created and the risk of relapse can become minimized as more tools are provided that treat an individual’s specific needs. There are several other areas of recovery that can help a person recover from relapse, too:

  •             Social support
  •             Holistic practices like yoga and meditation
  •             Therapy approaches, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  •             And more

Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 844-857-5992 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you – it’s never too late to begin taking steps towards a happier, healthier life.

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