What Happens in the Moment of Relapse?

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:


Anyone who suffers from an addiction knows that recovery is a challenging, lifelong process. We must constantly be aware of our stressors and triggers to note if we are in a situation where we feel the need to repeat old negative patterns of behavior. The beginning of our recovery journey can be particularly difficult, because we may fear relapsing. Relapsing is defined as the recurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement. Many people who are afraid of relapsing or who have already relapsed, are scared that they failed. Relapse is a normal part of the recovery process, though, and should not be considered a failed attempt at recovery – it is merely an opportunity for us to learn and grow from our experiences.

There are three main ties to relapses – physical, mental, and emotional.

Emotional relapses may occur in a person and while this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will go right back to their old addictive habits, it is the first stage of the relapse process and could indicate that a relapse could occur soon. If a person is feeling anxiety, intolerance, anger, defensiveness, mood swings, isolation, is missing meetings, is eating or sleeping poorly, or is refusing help, they could be on the brink of a relapse.

Mental relapses occur when a person is at war between using the drug/substance and staying sober. When this happens, the person experiences fleeting thoughts of using, and they can’t seem to stop. A few characteristics of this may be lying to the people closest to them, romanticizing using the substance/drug in the past, dwelling on people, places, or things that tie directly to the addiction, spending time with people that they used to engage in the addiction with, etc. At this stage, it can become very difficult for the person to stay sober because at this point, they may feel that they can control their addiction and that using only one more time won’t hurt them. The person may also feel that they can easily get away with using again.

Physical relapses could involve the person using the substance/drug only once and then realizing their mistake, or could mean that they fall back into old habits. Once a person has relapsed, they may feel anger, shame, disappointment, frustration, and more.

Relapsing does not mean that we have failed. It simply means that we are learning more about ourselves and how we react to triggers and stimuli – it provides us with an opportunity to look further into why we relapsed and what we can do to prevent this next time. This may also present an opportunity for us to enter back into inpatient treatment, or to increase our meeting attendance. Millions of people have relapsed and recovered from it. If we can view this as a learning opportunity and grow from it, we can make the most of our journey through recovery.


Residential treatment programs give you the time you need to focus on healing. Avalon Malibu is one of California’s only certified primary mental health treatment facility providing trusted programs with trusted results. For a confidential assessment and more information, call us today: 888-958-7511

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