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The Warnings Signs of Relapse and the Importance of Early Intervention

There is a common misconception that relapse is a single event involving someone with substance use disorder (SUD) returning to their drug of choice. However, relapse is not a single event; rather, it is a process. It often takes a while before you recognize your triggers and the signs of relapse. At times, you may not even know that your thoughts are headed in that direction.

Recovery is not easy. It involves learning about your triggers and how to handle them. Hence, relapse prevention plans are important, especially in early recovery. This blog will explore the warning signs of relapse, provide helpful tips on what you should do if you sense a potential relapse, and explore the importance of early intervention.

What Defines a Relapse?

There is a common misconception about the differences between a relapse and a slip-up. A slip-up is a short-lived or even accidental period of use. Often, a slip-up reflects a lack of healthy coping skills or early intervention strategies. Relapse, on the other hand, is defined as returning to heavy and frequent substance use.

Abstinence is often the goal of recovery. The idea that any minor substance use at all is considered a relapse can often increase the likelihood of future substance use. This all-or-nothing mindset can encourage people who lapse to see themselves as failures. They figure that the damage is already done, which is why they may as well continue to use substances.

However, recovery is not linear. Just as it took a lot of preparation to begin recovery and eliminate substances and triggers from your life, relapse prevention also requires energy and effort. Often when people relapse, they will struggle with feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings cause them to continue down the road of relapse.

What Are Signs of Relapse?

Although most people agree that having a relapse involves impulsive behavior, there are signs of relapse that occur before you take any action. Relapse is recognized to occur in three stages: emotional, mental, and physical. Below is an explanation of each and the potential danger signs of relapse:

  • Emotional relapse: During this stage, you are not thinking about drugs or alcohol. You may remember the last time you used them but you do not want to use them now. However, your emotions are setting you up for a potential relapse. Some warning signs could include isolation, bottling emotions up, giving excuses for not going to meetings, over-eating, or lack of sleep.
  • Mental relapse: This stage of relapse involves poor self-care over some time. You may experience periods of restlessness or discontent. The longer these mental states last, the more thoughts may surface about using substances again. Warning signs can include minimizing, lying, bargaining, thinking of ways to use, and planning.
  • Physical relapse: It is important to recognize the shift between mental and physical relapse. Physical relapse happens, of course, when you partake in the substance again on an ongoing basis. To prevent this from happening, it is important to have a relapse prevention plan in place. When you notice the first two stages and implement your plan, you can prevent a physical relapse from occurring.

Preventing a Mental and Emotional Relapse With Early Intervention

When you begin to see signs of mental or emotional relapse, it is helpful to have several early intervention strategies ready. Mental relapse includes formulating excuses or hiding your emotional state. For example, you may be going through a loss and lack the desire to process emotions. In doing this, you want a quick fix to eliminate the pain that you are experiencing.

Early intervention strategies will help you cope with signs of relapse healthily. Recognizing your early warning signs of potential relapse is part of early intervention. Take a moment and think about the signs that you acknowledge are “danger zones.” For example, the stress of relationships could be a trigger of mental or emotional relapse. If this is so, then what healthy coping skills can you utilize?

Healthy Coping and Early Intervention

As you continue to grow in recovery, so will your list of healthy coping skills and good practices for early intervention. Identifying what helps you to stay sober and being attentive to possible signs of relapse is beneficial for anyone in recovery. Some helpful tips include:

  • Listing your triggers
  • Identifying personal signs of relapse
  • Exploring healthy supports
  • Keeping accountability
  • Being honest with yourself
  • Journaling your thoughts and feelings
  • Participating in individual therapy
  • Focusing on today
  • Expressing gratitude daily

Early Intervention at The Guest House

Co-founders of The Guest House, Judy Crane and John West, bring a dynamic of love, inspiration, and compassion to those who struggling with addiction. They both sought to bring healing through award-winning treatment and amenities to make your stay as comfortable as possible. You will be met with open arms as you begin to identify and understand your signs of relapse.

The Guest House clinical team offers an array of therapeutic modalities to meet you right where you are at in your journey. Early intervention begins with acknowledging potential signs of relapse. Staff members at The Guest House understand that it is important to start your recovery as early as possible. Furthermore, identifying your emotional needs is key to early intervention.

Signs of Relapse Do Not Mean Failure

Relapse is overwhelming, daunting, and disappointing. However, this does not mean that you are a failure. If anything, it means that you are growing and becoming stronger in your recovery. What matters most is what actions you take immediately following a relapse.

The best steps to take are to identify your triggers, surround yourself with positive support, go to a meeting, attend individual therapy, and practice self-care. By acknowledging signs of relapse and early intervention, you will make yourself stronger than ever in your lifelong recovery journey.

A relapse does not happen out of the blue. Instead, it happens over the course of time. Signs of relapse are often sneaky and occur without the knowledge of their origin. Taking some time to revise your relapse prevention plan and identifying triggers can prevent a relapse from occurring. Although you completed this task during treatment, it may need an update. Just as life changes, so do early signs of relapse. At The Guest House, we take signs of relapse seriously. We want you to succeed in your recovery. We offer years of clinical experience to assist you with your recovery goals. If you or someone you know is struggling with signs of relapse, call us at (855) 483-7800.