Addiction Recovery and Relapse

What happens if it happens?

While rehab can lead to recovery, it is certainly not without struggle. Many recovered users experience a relapse during or after the addiction recovery process. That’s why it is important to understand that relapse is a process, not an event. In order to understand relapse prevention, you have to understand the stages of relapse. Relapse starts weeks or even months before the event of physical relapse.

Generally speaking, there are three stages of relapse:

  • Emotional relapse: you’re not thinking about using, but your emotions and behaviors are setting you up for a possible relapse in the future. Signs include anxiety, intolerance, anger, defensiveness, mood swings, isolation, not asking for help and not going to meetings
  • Mental relapse: there’s a battle going on in your mind; part of you wants to use, but part of you doesn’t. In the early phase of mental relapse you’re just idly thinking about using, but in the later phase you’re definitely thinking about using.
  • Physical relapse: once you start thinking about relapse, it doesn’t take long to go from there to physical relapse. Driving to the liquor store. Driving to your dealer. Using.


As stated earlier, relapses do happen…but it’s crucial to understand that one slip does not mean that your recovery is a failure, or due to lack of willpower or courage. So what do you do? You get back on the road to recovery. Admit that you made a mistake. Avoid high-risk situations and people, and call your sponsor or a member of your support system right away to talk about what happened. Learn from the relapse. Identify your “weak” points and work on overcoming them. Remind yourself of why you are giving up the addictive behavior. Recommit yourself. Get back into a supportive environment where you’ll have a much better chance of stopping the relapse and getting back on track with your recovery.

It’s also critically important that you talk with others who have also undergone a relapse and come back from it. The caring and compassionate staff at 12 Keys Rehab know first-hand what you’re going through and can offer encouragement, support, recommendations and a non-judgmental ear – something you’ll definitely need during this painful time. They can help provide you with coping tools – things that worked for them and have worked for countless others – so that you’ll be able to prevent relapse from happening again. Most of all, they will help you to understand that relapse is not unusual, it is preventable, and you can develop your ability to prevent it in the future.

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