Physical relapse is easy to define and identify—it is the act of taking drugs when you have previously been in rehab. However, emotional relapse is a little more difficult to define and identify. Emotional relapse is the first phase that often leads to physical relapse. In emotional relapse you are not yet thinking about using drugs (that’s the second phase leading to relapse), but your emotions and feelings are in a state that could lead you to relapse. In emotional relapse you feel overwhelmed by emotions and feel unable to cope with them. You either ignore them or they dominate your life. Common signs of emotional relapse include the following:
Fortunately there are some things that you can do to help you avoid emotional relapse. By maintaining diligence over your recovery, and by utilizing the necessary tools and techniques, you can avoid relapse.
One of the most important techniques for avoiding emotional relapse is to practice self-care. This is simply the practice of providing for your own physical, emotional and social needs. This means eating healthy, exercising, getting enough rest, spending time with others who encourage your sobriety and avoiding unhealthy relationships. Self-care does not mean being selfish. It means recognizing your needs and noticing when those needs are no longer being met. The goal is to avoid creating situations that drain you physically and emotionally and make you want to escape by using drugs again.
According to a 2013 article from Psych Central, a common reason for physical relapse is complacency. You may be highly motivated to continue with your recovery when you first leave rehab, but over time you will be tempted to abandon your continuing aftercare. You may stop going to meetings. You may think you have conquered addiction because you feel much stronger. You may fail to take care of need like sleep and a healthy diet.
The best way to guard against complacency is to keep working on your recovery, no matter how you feel, good or bad. Keep going to meetings, keep talking to your sponsor and keep accountability with others. Stay away from old drug using friends or place. Volunteer. Give back to others. Whatever you do, keep moving forward. Standing still will set the stage for complacency and relapse.
According to the American Psychological Association, Relapse Prevention Therapy (RP) helps recovering addicts deal with high-risk situations (both positive and negative) that threaten their drug abstinence. In RP therapy clients learn to recognize those high-risk situations. Then they identify and practice strategies for dealing with those situations. In RP recovering addicts learn to deal with cravings and ride the waves of the urges. In conjunction with other continuing therapies and aftercare, Relapse Prevention Therapy has been helpful for many addicts who are at risk for emotional and physical relapse.
According to a 2013 article from the Huffington Post, romanticizing the past keeps you from being vigilant about continuing in your recovery program. When you romanticize the past, you think about all of the fun you used to have when you used drugs. You think about your old buddies and the relationships you had with them. You feel wistful and nostalgic. You watch a movie that depicts drugs in a positive light, and you begin remembering how good they felt. In romanticizing the past, you focus only on the positive and don’t admit the negative consequences of your behavior. You forget the relationships that were damaged, the jail time you endured or the time you spent without a job. To counter romancing the past, you must live in the present moment in the current reality
One of the ways to live in the moment (and not the past) is to practice mindfulness meditation. This means focusing on emotions, thoughts and sensations of the current moment without judgment. In this kind of meditation, a recovering addict will undergo guided meditation (by a real person or via a CD or other recording). During the meditation a person brings attention to emotions that you would normal ignore and evaluate how those feeling can lead to cravings and emotional relapse. Rather than returning to drugs to deal with those feelings, recovering addicts learn how to tolerate emotional distress until it fades eventually. This same tolerance can then be applied to cravings. Cravings can be identified and tolerated without an addict acting upon them. According to a 2014 article from Live Science, mindful meditation practices have been effective in helping avoid relapse when practiced in conjunction with other forms of traditional relapse prevention techniques
If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug addiction, we can help. You can call our toll-free helpline any time, 24 hours a day. We are available seven days a week to talk with your about the symptoms you are experiencing as well as the concerns you have about treatment. We can also help you find a treatment center that will meet your needs. We can even contact your insurance company at no cost to find out what treatment options are available under its plan. The new year is a great time to start on the path of recovery, so call us today.