Drug and alcohol addiction is a disease with clear symptoms and viable treatments. And, just like any other medical condition, the disease of addiction can have flare-ups or what is known in recovery as relapse. The positive benefits of living life clean and sober can be a strong deterrent to picking up that first drink or drug during recovery.
However, it’s common to still experience urges and cravings as a recovering addict. Learning how to manage them is an important part of the recovery process.
Awareness is the First Step
Being aware of your addiction, urge, and craving for drugs and wanting to make a change is the first important step to recovery. Once you make such a decision, you can then set goals for how to achieve that change and sustain it without relapsing or falling for the temptation of urges and cravings.
This might involve developing new habits such as exercising or taking up a new hobby. Your habits influence your choices, and once you are in the habit of using drugs, it’s not easy to stop, even after being in rehab. The important thing is to never give up, even if you do relapse.
Relapse Can Help You in the Future
If you do relapse, it can give insight into adjustments that are needed in the addiction treatment plan. While there is no standard definition of a relapse, it typically occurs in well-defined stages that may occur in any order:
- Emotional relapse: increased negative feelings such as stress, irritability, depression, or loneliness that causes you to isolate and then relapse.
- Mental relapse: increased thoughts of using and rationalising dangerous behaviours such as going into bars or hanging with former using friends.
- Physical relapse: strong physical urges to use drugs or alcohol that may indicate the need to return to rehab.
If a recovering person is experiencing any of these stages of relapse after attending a drug addiction treatment program, it doesn’t mean that relapse is inevitable. It does mean they need to strengthen their community support, talk about emotional issues, and steer clear of those people, places, or things that would allow them to pick up.