When a person receives treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction, they often forget that relapse prevention is one of the most important aspects of addiction treatment available. In fact, relapse prevention can make all the difference between successful recovery and resuming substance abuse.
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Relapse, or recidivism, is far different from what most people think or assume it is. The most common thought or idea about recidivism is that it is a momentary slip or a single incidence of weakness that happens when a person with a drug or alcohol addiction uses the substance they are addicted to again after receiving treatment or recovering from that addiction. However, the truth is that recidivism is more than just that one moment in time. Relapse is actually a process that occurs in distinct stages.
Relapse prevention is a way to combat the various stages of recidivism. It involves various treatments, coping mechanisms and other strategies that help to stop recidivism from occurring or to help thwart it in its early stages. These techniques are started in the initial addiction treatment process so that they can be put to use afterwards.
There are three different and distinct stages of recidivism that a person may experience. While it is true that these stages are chronological, when a person starts the process, it does not necessarily mean that this person will progress through all three of those stages. Using proper prevention techniques, the process can be stopped early.
Emotional relapse is not a conscious stage. It is actually subconscious in nature. This means that the recovering addict is not necessarily thinking about substance abuse or trying to resume detrimental behaviors. This can make this first stage difficult to notice unless a person explicitly knows what to expect and what to look for. Some of the common signs of emotional relapse include:
The most important factor for prevention at this stage is to help a recovering addict become more emotionally and behaviorally aware. This will help a recovering addict from moving beyond the emotional stage. In initial addiction treatment, this awareness building begins in individual and group therapy sessions.
Then, it is further explored and developed in therapies such as art or music therapy. Not only do recovering addicts become more aware of their emotions and behaviors in such therapy sessions, but they develop ways to cope with emotional relapse as it occurs, by creating art or music.
Mental relapse is conscious and in many ways intentional. In this stage, the recovering addict can no longer trust their own mind or instincts as their mind is actually betraying them. This is also a more mentally active stage and can progress very quickly. Some of the major signs include:
Mental relapse is best treated or prevented through collaborative efforts. In other words, redirecting oneself using art or music therapy will not be sufficient to break the negative thought patterns and behaviors that constitute this stage. The person's mind is their own worst enemy at this stage and requires a person to seek out outside help to overcome this stage.
Support group meeting attendance is very important at this stage, and should be increased as soon as a person notices these signs and issues. Talking directly with sponsors or going to a therapist would also be helpful to the recovering addict at this point as the outside opinions will help a person to confront their issues. Finally, thinking the process through to its conclusion or end results will help a recovering addict to think beyond the momentary pleasure they may derive from using the substance again.
Finally, physical relapse is the purchase and use of the addicted substance again. Prevention isn't an option at this point. But, a person can still regain control over their addiction and get sober again so that they can learn from their errors and overcome their addiction to drugs or alcohol once and for all.