Understanding Relapse

One of the most common misunderstandings about relapse is that it happens suddenly. One minute you’re doing well in your recovery and the next minute you’ve relapsed. Bang!

But in reality, this just isn’t true. Relapse is a process, not an event, and when you can begin to notice the early signs of that process, you’ll be in a stronger position to ensure you don’t relapse.

Dr Steven Melemis says that there are 3 stages in relapse:-

  • Emotional Relapse
  • Mental Relapse
  • Physical Relapse

During the first stage, acting out may be the furthest thing from your mind. But something is going on in your life that is leaving you feeling stressed, anxious, irritable, depressed or generally ‘out of sorts’. In other words, life has got on top of you and you’re emotionally vulnerable. If this state continues, then regrettably it’s could just be a matter of time before you go into stage two mental relapse. In mental relapse you’ll start thinking about acting out again. Perhaps remembering old times or fantasising them. You’ll become more aware of triggers around you and start ‘flirting’ with temptations. If those urges and cognitive distortions go unchecked, you’ll progress to physical relapse.

True recovery from addiction means not only stopping the compulsive behaviours, but also learning to manage emotional vulnerability in a healthy and positive way. It also means learning to recognise the negative thinking patterns and cognitive distortions that threaten your commitment to recovery.

Understanding the stages of relapse and learning to recognise them, can ensure you stay in recovery and lead the life you want and deserve.