Even after the physical dependence on alcohols has been removed, the emotional and mental aspects to alcohol addiction can still cause a relapse. Although it can seem like the alcohols are no longer an issue if you haven’t used for a while, learning about relapse prevention strategies is important if you want to avoid falling into your old habits. Most alcohol rehab centres consider relapses a potentially serious issue and will teach users to focus on avoiding relapse in the future.
Understand that there are several stages to a relapse. It isn’t just a flash of desire that takes control unexpectedly; it builds up over time and eventually leads people back to the substance. The three stages can be simply classified as emotional, mental and physical relapse, and the first two are vital to relapse prevention. Stopping the feelings which lead to relapse when they first arise is better than letting them continue and gain power.
The initial stage of relapse is emotional. In this stage, the person doesn’t explicitly think about their addiction, but they are subconsciously being set up for a relapse. Feelings of anger, anxiety, isolation and defensiveness are mixed with neglect of eating and sleeping. The person will also avoid meetings which help them fight addiction and other forms of help. This combination makes it more likely they will turn back to alcohols in the future.
The next stage is mental relapse. This involves slipping back into a “alcohol user” frame of mind, with a focus on past use. The person will glamorise their past use, think about situations and times in which they’ve used, the friends they used with and start to plan for a relapse consciously. This may seem an easy stage for relapse prevention, because the issue is being indentified directly, but the emotional stage that preceded it can make it difficult to want to change. The final stage, physical relapse, involves actively seeking alcohols, and if the relapse gets to this point it is very difficult to prevent.
The most important technique for relapse prevention is identifying the pre-cursors from the steps above. After going through a comprehensive alcohol rehab program, you should understand the factors which lead to your alcohol use and be prepared for the difficult process ahead. Stay vigilant and don’t feel as if your addiction is “cured” as a result of any actions you’ve taken. When you become addicted to alcohols, connections form between different elements in your life and your use, and these elements will always push you towards alcohols. However, the impact will be reduced as your sobriety continues.
If you find that you are suffering from the emotional symptoms of alcohol relapse, you should focus on other ways to deal with them. Continue to take care of yourself, find ways to reduce your stress levels and be willing to ask for help. You should start meditating or going for walks to relax and feel better. Then you will avoid fantasising about your alcohol use. Alcohols become an easy route out of your problems, and this leads to physical relapse.
If you find yourself fantasising about your alcohol use, you have to follow the story through to the end. You may have found that alcohols provided relief from day-to-day anxieties or stresses, but they also have a dark side which caused you to stop taking them originally. If you start taking alcohols again, the entire story will repeat, with both the positive and negative aspects. Taking things one step at a time is an important technique in relapse prevention. You shouldn’t be trying to stay clean “forever,” instead, try to stay clean for a month, a week, a day or even the next hour. When you’ve succeeded, start again. It’ll get easier every time through.
Get in touch with us if you’re having problems dealing with relapse prevention. We provide free advice on the different alcohol rehab facilities available and can help with a wide range of issues. We can help you with additional strategies for relapse prevention, and provide telephone counselling, for a small fee. Relapse prevention is one of the most challenging aspects of tackling addiction, and you shouldn’t face it alone.