Why do relapses happen (physical and psychological causes)?

Relapse is common, and it doesn’t discriminate! Why do so many alcoholics and addicts in recovery relapse, knowing it could cost them their relationships, their freedom, their careers, and even their lives?

Reasons Behind Drug and Alcohol Relapse

Addiction is a chronic disease, which means that it never completely goes away. For most addicts, once they’ve become exposed and addicted to a drug or alcohol, they will always be at risk of becoming addicted again or becoming addicted to a different substance. For this reason, there are a variety of factors involved in what occurs when a relapse takes place.

The Cycle of Relapse

Like most people, you may have always thought that a drug or alcohol relapse occurs when a person begins using again. This is a common misperception. There is a cycle involved in relapsing, and while a person might be heading toward a relapse, that doesn’t always indicate that a relapse is imminent or unpreventable. Let’s take a closer look at the cycle of relapse.

The Emotional Stage – This is the stage when the potential for relapse begins. It can involve trigger situations or stressful events that bring about a longing for drugs or alcohol.

The Psychological Stage – This stage is where a great deal of the bargaining takes place. The recovering person will often have thoughts such as, “Only one use won’t hurt me” or “I’m strong enough never to do this again.”

The Physical Stage – This is the final stage of relapse when the person uses drugs or alcohol. At first, there will most likely be a sense of euphoria that’s experienced. Due to some social situation, he/he might further reinforce those triggers that made those situations dangerous in the first place.

Don’t lose hope or down a very destructive path, here are the signs you can watch for. They include:

  • Voicing destructive thoughts or ideas
  • Strange, abrupt behaviors
  • Forgetting healthy habits
  • Neglecting coping tools
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Isolation from others or activities

Strategies To Avoid Relapses Or Mitigate Its Effect

Join a support group – Participating in a support program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous provides a foundation that helps people remain abstinent from drinking and drug use.

Mind your HALT – This acronym, well-known in the recovery community, means people should not get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired, any of which can lead to a relapse.

Learn New ways to Cope – It’s important to learn new coping skills to deal with stressful situations without reaching for a drink or drugs. Focus on new ways to avoid those ridiculous situations.

If you relapse, reach out – People who’ve been sober for weeks, months or years typically feel devastated and humiliated if they relapse or slip. Rather than self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, they should reach out to someone in their network and go to a support meeting and talk about what happened.