Many people assume that addiction treatment and rehab is all the care a person needs to fully overcome their substance abuse problems. However, in reality, an addiction recovery program without relapse prevention can derail a person's recovery. Relapse prevention is a vital part of any recovery program.
The common misconception is that relapse is an instant of weakness that occurs when a person uses the drug or alcohol. However, there is more relapse than just a single moment; it is a process that recovering addicts go through in stages.
Relapse prevention is a set of strategies, coping mechanisms, and treatments that serve to help stop relapse in the early stages, to reverse it, or to stop it before it even starts.
There are three different stages of relapse that a person can go through. While these stages are chronological, starting the relapse process does not necessarily mean that a person will progress through all three of them. With proper prevention techniques designed for specific stages, a person can stop or reverse those effects.
Emotional relapse is subconscious rather than conscious in nature. This means the recovering addict will not necessarily have any intention of resuming problem behaviors or substance abuse. Additionally, most of what occurs in this stage has little or nothing to do with substance abuse and addiction directly. Some of the most common signs of this stage include:
Helping a recovering addict become more emotionally aware is the most important factor in helping to prevent emotional relapse from progressing into other stages. This begins in treatment with individual and group therapy and is further developed in art and music therapy. Art and music therapy also help a recovering addict to develop coping mechanisms to channel those negative emotions into positive activities rather than letting them spiral out of control.
Mental relapse is a conscious stage of relapse in which the addicted person's mind begins to betray them and they are actively thinking about their addiction and about substance abuse. Some of the primary signs of this phase include:
When it comes to mental relapse using redirection techniques such as art and music therapy alone are no longer really options. Because a recovering addict cannot trust their own mind in this stage of relapse, it is imperative that they seek out outside help. This can and should start with attending even more frequent support group meetings than they normally do, talking directly to sponsors, and of course going to a therapist. Seeking out close friends or family members for help is also useful at this stage as well. And of course, thinking the whole process of resuming substance use and abuse through to the inevitable negative end results will also help to stop the process and help a recovering addict regain control over their mind and thoughts.
Physical relapse is when the addicted person purchases the addicted substance and uses it again. At this stage, prevention is no longer an option as physical relapse is the end result the process. However, a person can still start over, recovering once again and learning from their mistakes to avoid another bout of relapse.