In the United States, 40% to 60% of people who complete a substance use disorder treatment program relapse.¹ Relapsing does not mean treatment hasn’t worked, but it can feel like a step back for many people, potentially discouraging them from continuing their recovery. Fortunately, there are ways of helping yourself avoid relapse after you complete a program, including joining a relapse prevention group.
Like diabetes and heart disease, addiction is a chronic, relapsing illness. Even if you have been sober for a long time, the illness is not gone.
There can be many different triggers, including environmental ones, that can lead to a relapse.
Environmental triggers can include:
- Abruptly ending medication-management therapy
- Being around someone with an active substance use disorder
- Seeing objects associated with substance use
- Lacking a solid support system
There can also be mental triggers, like experiencing negative emotions or having untreated mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, as well as physical triggers, like experiencing extreme pain from an injury or illness.
The Stages of Relapse
Relapse typically occurs in three stages.²
Emotional relapse comes first. During this stage, you may not be actively considering using drugs or alcohol again, but your emotions and behaviors can set you up for a relapse. Some common signs of this stage are:
- Mood swings
- Not going to support groups
- Bottling up your emotions
- Poor self-care
The second stage is mental relapse.
During this stage, you may be battling yourself, with part of you wanting to use and the other part wanting to remain sober. Signs of mental relapse are:
- Thinking about people or places you associate with use
- Minimizing past use
- Imagining using
- Bargaining with yourself
- Thinking up schemes to control future use
The last stage is physical relapse when you use drugs or alcohol.
What Is a Relapse Prevention Group?
A relapse prevention group can take many forms, including 12-step programs, structured outpatient groups that meet weekly, and even cognitive-behavioral therapy groups. These groups can allow you to remain committed to your recovery while also helping you avoid isolation.
Relapse prevention groups can provide many benefits. After leaving structured treatment, you will have more independence, making it easier to relapse. If you know you have meetings to attend and people who hold you accountable, you can decrease the risk of relapsing.
These groups can also ensure you feel part of a community. Being with others who are going through similar challenges can ease any sense of loneliness you may feel.
Additionally, relapse prevention groups can help you check your thoughts and behavioral patterns. It is part of human nature to minimize negative consequences while looking fondly at positive experiences. Still, a support group can challenge any of these thoughts or memories, helping you remember how bad substance abuse can get.
Relapse Prevention Plans
Relapse prevention groups can help you put together a relapse prevention plan. This type of plan is like a blueprint that can help you get back on track if you feel that you are at risk of relapsing.
To create your plan, you will need first to list your triggers while also considering your substance abuse history.
The relapse plan should also include a list of warning signs. Think about your behavioral patterns and what you may experience right before you use. Sharing this list with your relapse prevention group can make it easier for them to help you stay on course. It would be best if you also put together an action plan to prevent yourself from using.
For example, instead of drinking or using, plan whether you will call a loved one, attend a meeting, or enter rehab. Having a detailed plan can help you avoid relapse because it will be similar to following instructions.
Begin Addiction Recovery Today
Don’t struggle with addiction on your own when you can get the help you need at a dedicated Arizona treatment center like Wolf Creek Recovery. We are here to guide you as you begin your path to sobriety and help you find the kind of support group you can depend on in Prescott.
Call Wolf Creek Recovery to learn more about our services today.
Sources: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/
Finding purpose in pain is what Jonathon does best. He is a strong advocate for those suffering from substance use disorders. As a person in recovery, Jonathon knows how important it is to receive empathy and compassion. He recognizes that each person comes from a different set of circumstances and deserves to be valued and respected.
With a fresh perspective and compassionate attitude, Jonathon works closely with clients to help them let go of the past and know when to take necessary risks. The recovery process is ongoing, which means people need to move forward while applying the skills learned in treatment. Jonathon is a great motivator when it comes time for this!
Jonathon also places emphasis on the family unit and how it can make or break the recovery experience. Individuals with active, supportive families have far better outcomes. Jonathon realizes that it’s impossible to move mountains overnight, but with the right support team and positive attitude, anything is possible.