There is a term used in substance abuse treatment called ‘Relapse’.
‘Relapse’ simply defined is: ‘to slip or fall back into a former state’. In the context of substance abuse treatment it means going back to using a substance that you have been successfully abstaining from.
A relapse doesn’t begin when you pick up a drink or a drug. It is a slow process that begins long before you actually use.
If you are trying to obtain long-term sobriety and avoid having a relapse along the way, it is important to recognize the following warning signs and take action to keep them from progressing into a full-blown relapse:
1. Change in attitude: you might start to think that abstaining is not that important. You start to neglect some of the things you were doing to help you remain sober.
2. Elevated stress: this may be caused by a big change in your life or just little things building up. It is important during recovery to have a support system, or people you can talk to in order to blow off steam.
3. Denial: not admitting to yourself that you are stressed or that things are not moving as smoothly as you thought they would. This kind of denial is not denying that you have an alcohol or drug problem, but rather denying that you have stress and you try to convince yourself that you are okay when you are actually not. This may also include rationalization, which is thinking and believing that your substance use was not that bad.
4. Behaviour change: you might begin to avoid situations that call for an honest evaluation of your behaviour. You may also start becoming defensive and have mood swings.
5. Social breakdown: you may start withdrawing from friends and family members. They may start becoming boring to you. In short, you become isolated.
6. Loss of structure: you might abandon your daily routine, or even neglect your personal hygiene and health.
7. Loss of judgement: you might begin to have trouble making decisions or you might begin to make unhealthy decisions. It starts becoming difficult to manage your emotions and feelings, becoming annoyed and easily angered especially when your decisions are criticized or challenged.
8. Loss of Control: you might begin to lose confidence in your ability to manage life. You may start thinking that you will be able to control yourself once you start using again. You believe that this time everything will be different and you now know how to control yourself.
9. Loss of options: you might feel completely helpless. At this stage, some people relapse, and some may even commit suicide. It is important to remember that you always have a choice.
10. Relapse: this is when you go back to using your substance of preference. You might attempt to control yourself. Relapse may cause increased problems with relationships, jobs, money, mental and physical health. At this stage you need help to get sober again.
Substance abuse can be overcome and you have the ability to stay sober for as long as you need to. If you find yourself in a position where you have relapsed, it’s not the end of the world. There is still hope and you are not weak willed.
BOSASNet Counsellors can offer support to people struggling with substance abuse. To speak to someone in confidence, call 395 9119 or 72659891.