There is nothing easy about pursuing a life free from drugs or alcohol, and the threat of relapse can be a difficult, looming stressor to navigate. Experiencing a relapse in recovery can be debilitating, impacting one’s sobriety directly while also compromising the feelings of success, progress, and motivation to continue chasing one’s sober goals. 

There is a pervasive myth that relapse is an unavoidable part of recovery. Unfortunately, some will even claim that relapse is a rite of passage during recovery. While relapse can be common, it is not necessarily a foregone conclusion for any individual’s recovery journey. One can mitigate the risk of relapse by identifying effective supports for one’s sobriety and potential stressors and triggers that may challenge one’s sobriety. 

What Is Relapse?

Relapse is a constant concern for those navigating their newfound sobriety. Relapse is a return to routines or practices to reengage with addictive substances and the attitudes accompanying their use. 

While taking a sip before recognizing a beverage contains alcohol and putting a drink back down again is certainly a cause for concern and should be addressed for one’s continued sobriety, it is not necessarily a relapse. A relapse manifests as a reversion to previous destructive lifestyles. Returning to former social groups where one used drugs or alcohol, hiding one’s substance use, and engaging in regular use of addictive substances are all part of a relapse. 

Some other signs of relapse include:

  • Romanticizing past drug or alcohol use
  • Engaging with addictive substances at a similar level or frequency as before one began treatment
  • False feeling of control over one’s ability to regulate use
  • Self-isolation from friends, family, and loved ones
  • Distancing oneself from interests, hobbies, and sober outlets
  • Doubting oneself or the efficacy of recovery programs
  • Seeing recovery efforts, meetings, and peers as hurdles to one’s use rather than supportive figures
  • Feelings of anger and mood swings

Relapse challenges an individual’s attitudes in recovery and impacts one’s continued recovery efforts on every level. Therefore, identifying the signs of relapse is crucial for helping individuals re-situate themselves on their sober goals. 

While 40-60% of those pursuing sobriety experience relapse at some point in their journey, the likelihood of relapse can depend on the substance used, how long one has been struggling with substance use disorder (SUD), and many other personal factors. While relapses are common, expecting that relapse is an inevitable part of recovery is not only misinformed but dangerous. 

The Dangers of Expecting Relapse

Just because one experiences a relapse does not mean that recovery or treatment is ineffective, and considering relapse as a natural part of the recovery journey can have many detrimental effects. For some, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as an individual expecting to relapse may feel less inclined to engage in relapse-prevention strategies to develop personalized, effective coping techniques. 

Others may believe that relapses are less dangerous than they are. However, relapses can be deadly, especially because one’s body often cannot process drugs or alcohol at the same level or rate as before starting the recovery process. The change in one’s tolerance levels increases thechances of overdose or other drug or alcohol-related emergencies. Therefore, it is imperative to take relapses and release prevention seriously.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse can be most common during the early stages of one’s recovery. However, constant urges and cravings mean that relapse is possible from these first steps into sobriety to celebrating one’s next full year sober and beyond. Relapse prevention strategies are crucial for maintaining the critical transformation achieved during the dedicated time at a center for alcohol and drug treatment. 

Finding Support

Creating a support network early on can be essential for ensuring one has personal backup, even when urges and cravings to reengage with addictive substances occur. Building communication with family members and loved ones can ensure that one always has a safe space to discuss difficulties and stresses at home. Connecting with peers and professionals throughout dedicated programs can provide an understanding, educated space to challenge any thoughts of reengaging with drugs or alcohol. 

Self-Care Practices

Personalized strategies such as journaling and mindfulness practices can help individuals identify stressful elements in their lives and create dedicated plans to reduce this stress. Likewise, developing outlets for exercise and spiritual health can also help each individual focus on their sobriety and progress while safely processing any urges or cravings. 

Discussing one’s urges, stresses, and more can all also help each individual feel more in control of how they respond to such pressure, providing the education and agency needed to combat relapse and continue to make the most informed decisions for one’s sober future. 

Relapse in recovery can be incredibly dangerous. Although relapse can be common, it is by no means a “necessary” part of recovery. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand the need to prepare personalized strategies to help you prevent relapse from affecting your new sober life. From your first step into detox to residential care to our continued outpatient support, we are committed to helping you with your long-term sobriety. If relapse does affect your life, our treatment program in Hawaii is committed to helping you refocus and adjust your coping strategies to step back on the sober path. Our unique approach to recovery, from proven therapeutic modalities to the healing energies and spirituality of the big island of Hawaii, allows us to create a truly transformative recovery experience. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, call us today at (866) 390-5070.