How To Deal With A Relapse

Contact Us

Often, after someone goes through the hard process of obtaining recovery and they come out of the other side drug-free, they feel that they are on the right path. It’s also common to feel a deep seeded fear of relapse. It’s difficult to think that after putting in an incredible amount of work in order to achieve recovery it may not last forever. However, relapse is a relatively common experience. It happens so often that some people refer to relapse as a part of recovery. This article will offer you a guide on how to deal with relapse and get back on the 

What is the Definition of Relapse?

A relapse is when an individual returns to using drugs and/or alcohol after a period of recovery. Most people in recovery from addiction and alcoholism have a consistently high risk of relapse. This is due to the fact that drugs and alcohol change certain structures and functions of the brain that continue to persist far beyond the initial period of sobriety. 

A relapse is when someone returns to full blown addiction by consistently abusing drugs and/or alcohol. This should not be mistaken for what is known as a lapse. A lapse or “slip” is when a person uses or drinks, but then immediately stops and seeks recovery again.

There are a couple of different types of relapses. The first one is what is known as a “traditional” relapse. A traditional relapse happens when an individual makes the conscious decision to drink or use drugs again. For example, they may choose to have a drink with friends because they feel like they can now manage it after years of sobriety. Another example is if someone begins to use Marijuana or sedative prescriptions in order to relax and relieve stress. The other type of relapse is known as a “freelapse”. A freelapse refers to an accidental relapse. This happens when a person unintentionally consumes drugs or alcohol. An example of a freelapse is when someone accidentally drinks an alcoholic beverage, or a hospital gives a person narcotics without notifying the individual beforehand. 

Usually people begin to unknowingly take steps towards a relapse weeks or months before they pick back up drugs or alcohol. Certain thoughts, emotions, and events can trigger cravings for drugs and alcohol. If these situations are not properly addressed, then it increases your chances of relapse.


The Warning Signs Of A Relapse

There are a number of different warning signs of a relapse. A relapse often occurs in three different stages. The first stage is the emotional relapse stage. An emotional relapse starts way before someone actually picks up a drink or drug. During this phase, people tend to bottle up their feelings, isolate themselves from others, go into denial about difficulties, and neglect self-care. Someone is usually not consciously thinking about picking back up drugs or alcohol again during this stage. Unfortunately, avoiding emotions and difficulties often lay the groundwork for a relapse in the future. The hardest part of the emotional relapse stage is that people are often naive to the risk of this phase. 

The next step is the mental stage of relapse. During the mental stage a person becomes aware of holding in conflicting feelings about sobriety. Although they may want to stay sober, part of them may be struggling with cravings and planning a secret relapse. A mental relapse includes glorifying previous substance abuse, dismissing the negative consequences of using, and seeking out opportunities in order to get drunk or high.

Lastly, the physical relapse stage will eventually begin. This involves the final choice of actually abusing drugs or alcohol again after a period of sobriety. Often, what starts as a lapse will quickly turn into a full-blown relapse. People find themselves quickly losing control of their substance abuse issues once again. 


How To Deal With A Relapse Once It Happens


Understanding how to deal with a relapse once it happens can help you stop future setbacks and recover quickly if the event arises. It’s important to remind yourself that there is no relapse that cannot be recovered from. If you or a loved one has relapsed, it is suggested that you take the following actions as soon as possible:


  • Reach out for help: It is vital to reach out to family, friends, and other people in recovery to help you deal with a relapse. Staying connected with positive influences will remind you that you are not alone, and sober friends normally provide guidance on how to deal with a relapse. 
  • Go to self-help groups: Self help groups, like NA, AA, and SMART recovery are all places in which you can find support. Groups like this provide safe and nonjudgmental places where you can discuss your relapse. You can also hear how other people have dealt with their relapses. Meetings are held frequently. Therefore, it is fairly easy to make it to a meeting as soon as you relapse in order to get help.
  • Stay away from triggers: It is important to avoid triggers as much as possible. Once a relapse occurs, triggers can trigger cravings. Cravings often keep people from seeking recovery again. If triggers cannot be avoided, then try to minimize contact as much as possible until you can learn how to cope with them in a healthy way. 
  • Implement self-care: It is easy to stop taking care of yourself once a relapse occurs, but taking care of yourself is vital. Self-care helps individuals recover from a relapse by reducing stress. Try to implement basic techniques such as exercise, journaling, and meditation. 
  • Develop or follow a relapse prevention plan: If you have a previous relapse prevention plan, then it is important to take the actions that are laid out in that plan. If you don’t, you should consider developing one. Relapse prevention plans outline resources and people you can go to for help. It also includes coping skills that should be implemented in order to deal with stress and cravings. It is important to regularly review and make changes to your relapse prevention plan according to what is current in your life. 


The fast you decide to take steps to stop a relapse, the easier it is to get back to recovery. However, it is important to understand that it is never too late to get help from a relapse. Don’t be discouraged, help is waiting for you. It is normal for people to need professional intervention in order to help them stop using. A majority of people benefit from attending an addiction treatment program following a relapse. 

Find Help For How To Deal With A Relapse In New Jersey 

Here at The Healing Center in Cherry Hill, NJ we know how to deal with a relapse. Our trained addiction professionals are here to help you no matter how long your relapse has lasted. We are a judgment free program, and some of our clients have needed to walk back through our doors following a relapse. Our staff welcomes them with compassion and understanding. No matter what your situation, we want to help you get back on track. Our program provides the tools you need to turn your relapse into a learning experience. We can dive deeper into how to cope with your triggers and reduce your cravings. If you or a loved one is unsure of how to deal with a relapse, then call our admissions team today. We are on call 24/7 to help you get back to sobriety as soon as possible.