For those new to recovery, successfully completing drug treatment is a major accomplishment. When treatment is completed, an individual feels like a whole new world opens up for them that is filled with new opportunities and limitless possibilities. While this new chapter in life is exciting, it may be difficult to comprehend that relapsing back into addiction often occurs and that addicts have high rates of relapse, no matter how solid their plan of recovery.

According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it is estimated that 40 to 60 percent of those who complete substance abuse treatment will experience a relapse, and especially within the first year of recovery. This is the reason why drug rehab facilities place great emphasis on teaching those new in recovery the essential relapse prevention techniques that are needed to combat the urges and cravings that can lead to relapse behavior. Relapse prevention education is an essential component to the drug treatment programs we offer at Guardian Recovery Network. Give us a call toll-free today to learn more.

teen in early recovery

Relapse: It Doesn’t Happen Overnight

There are many in recovery who think that relapse happens in an instant. In reality, relapse is gradual in development and takes part in three phases:

Emotional Relapse

In the emotional stage the addict may not be thinking of using again, but they can experience overwhelming emotions that may set them up for a relapse. These symptoms can include anxiety, fear, fatigue and anger among others. Additionally, a newly recovering person can also experience a loss of control, poor judgment, insomnia or other sleep issues and may have problems at work or school.

Mental Relapse

When the addict is struggling to cope with their emotions and it is causing distress, the newly recovering addict has entered the mental relapse stage. In this stage, the urge to use drugs and alcohol again is causing an internal tug-of-war with the deep desires to not throw away all the pain, sacrifice and effort it took to get clean and sober in the first place. The common signs of mental relapse can include the following:

  • Beginning to hang out with old friends and acquaintances the addict used to do drugs and alcohol with on a regular basis.
  • Longing for the times when they used drugs and alcohol.
  • Preoccupation with thinking about the people, places and activities from the past that centered on substance use.
  • Thinking of discrete ways to use substances without family and friends knowing or while they are at work or school.
  • The occasional thought of using substances become a constant stream of thought that revolves around using substances.

Physical Relapse

The inevitable step after mental relapse is the actual event in which an individual starts using drugs and alcohol. Physical relapse occurs shortly after the mental relapse stage and the moment when drug use occurs means recovery is over. When a person reaches this stage, an individual experiences extreme feelings of guilt and remorse which can result in depression. In this state, the addict may feel they may be a lost cause and will continue to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Essential Relapse Prevention Tips To Keep You Clean and Sober

The possibility of relapse is ever present in recovery. In order to minimize the chances of backsliding into active drug use, it is important to remember the relapse prevention tips that were taught during your time in drug treatment. Over time, you can refine these tips and tricks to suit your personality and lifestyle, and you will no doubt pick up new relapse prevention techniques as you progress in your recovery.

Keep Your Focus on the Present

Around the tables of 12-step meetings, the saying one day at a time is perhaps the most common heard among those in recovery. While it is a saying that can be considered cliche, it rings with obvious truth. An essential relapse prevention tip is to keep your focus and energy on the here and now and what you can do in the present. If you start thinking about your past or what may occur in the future your focus on your recovery becomes diluted and old thoughts and behaviors can start taking up space in your mind. Left unchecked, this can eventually make you vulnerable to relapse.

Keep Your Life in Balance

Another great relapse prevention tip for a newcomer is to create a balanced life utilizing activities that are healthy and recovery-oriented. Some suggestions that you can try include taking up new hobbies and past times, adopting a consistent exercise routine, adopting a healthy and well-balanced diet and taking time to savor the small victories that you experience in your recovery.

Lean on Your Support System

Addiction is not only a progressive and chronic disease, it is a disease of isolation. If you find yourself alone in your recovery, you are adopting a mindset that is risky for your recovery. That is why it is important that when the urges and cravings to use drugs and alcohol hits you that you reach out to supportive family and friends. These people can help you be wary of warning signs and can provide you with the support and encouragement you need to move past those valleys in your recovery journey.

Have a Plan For High-Risk Situations

For the newcomer, an important relapse prevention tip is to have a solid plan in place for those high-risk situations that are encountered. Before you attend a social function or other high-risk event, you need to have a plan in place which includes rehearsed responses to be offered drugs and alcohol, bringing a sober or supportive friend for support, having phone numbers programmed in your cell phone and cab fare in case you need it.

The Importance of Relapse Prevention Cannot Be Overlooked

Your recovery is a major investment that must be protected at all costs. For relapse prevention education that is proven to work and tailored to meet  your specific needs, Guardian Recovery Network is your first choice. Call us today!


Reviewed for accuracy by:

Anna earned her Masters of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL in 2017 and completed her internship in co-occurring disorders. Anna has a Bachelors of Art in Religious Studies from Naropa University and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Anna has received specialized training in somatic counseling with an emphasis on body-centered psychotherapy.