What Happens When Alcoholics Relapse?

Self-care might be as simple as adjusting your diet or getting more sleep. Self-care can also mean taking better care of your emotional needs. Take time out for yourself, treat yourself with compassion, and let yourself have fun. Caring for a person who has problems with alcohol can be very stressful. It is important that as you try to help your loved one, you find a way to take care of yourself as well. It may help to seek support from others, including friends, family, community, and support groups.

Alcohol Relapse

Once an individual has had one drink or one drug use, it may quickly lead to a relapse of uncontrolled using. But more importantly, it usually will lead to a mental relapse of obsessive or uncontrolled thinking about using, which eventually can lead to physical relapse. Having a substance abuse disorder like alcohol use disorder or alcoholism means that you have a chronic health condition, much like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Relapse Prevention Strategies

Sleep deprivation undermines recovery in indirect ways as well. And it robs people of the energy needed to rebuild their life. The causes of substance dependence are rarely obvious to users themselves. Addiction recovery is most of all a process of learning about oneself.

Alcohol Relapse

Sometimes people relapse because, in their eagerness to leave addiction behind, they cease engaging in measures that contribute to recovery. At this stage, a person might not even think about using substances, but there is a lack of attention to self-care, the person is isolating from others, and they may be attending therapy sessions or group meetings only intermittently. Attention to sleep and healthy eating is minimal, as is attention to emotions and including fun in one’s life. Self-care helps minimize stress—important because the experience of stress often encourages those in recovery to glamorize past substance use and think about it longingly. It’s an acknowledgement that recovery takes lots of learning, especially about oneself. Recovery from addiction requires significant changes in lifestyle and behavior, ranging from changing friend circles to developing new coping mechanisms.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Treatment

Some clinicians will divide this stage of relapse into a lapse and then the actual relapse. A relapse is a return to using alcohol in a way that’s out of control. Understanding triggers for alcohol use is important for someone in recovery and their loved ones. If someone knows their triggers, they can better avoid them and reduce their risk of a relapse. Based on clinical experience, many health providers believe that support from friends and family members is important in overcoming alcohol problems. But friends and family may feel unsure about how best to provide the support needed.

  • There is an important distinction to be made between a lapse, or slipup, and a relapse.
  • A warning sign is when clients ask for professional help and consistently ignore the advice.
  • There are a lot of misconceptions about a relapse on alcohol or drugs.
  • Moreover, the brain is capable of awakening memories of drug use on its own.
  • Relapse-prevention therapy and mind-body relaxation are commonly combined into mindfulness-based relapse prevention [30].

But this view is considered harmful since it fosters feelings of guilt and shame that can hinder your ability to recover from a setback. For others, recovery is a personal growth process that usually involves a couple setbacks.2 Rather than viewing a relapse as shameful, this perspective looks at it as a learning experience. Regarding setbacks as a normal part of progress enables individuals to broaden their https://ecosoberhouse.com/ array of coping skills, to engage in planning for problematic situations, and to devise strategies in advance for dealing with predictable difficulties. Among the most important coping skills needed are strategies of distraction that can be quickly engaged when cravings occur. Mindfulness training, for example, can modify the neural mechanisms of craving and open pathways for executive control over them.

What is a Relapse?

According to a review of relapse prevention, lapse and relapse are not only possible, but common within and after the first year of seeking treatment. Treatment for addiction can help clients work through a relapse and begin taking active steps to change their behavior. Generally, at the very least, a relapse likely means that you need additional support while in recovery, also known as aftercare. Aftercare can consist of sober living houses, 12-step programs and ongoing therapy. These help keep you focused on your recovery, reducing your risk of relapse. Alcohol addiction experts have long been aware that stress increases the risk of alcohol relapse.

Alcohol Relapse

You could, for example, be going over in your mind permitting yourself to use in a certain situation. It can be hard for you if you experience a mental relapse because you might have felt that you’d never think about using again after treatment. If someone is in recovery, they might feel more of a temptation to drink again than normal.

Preventing relapse by restoring an opioid-weakened brain pathway governing behavior

It’s helpful to have a relapse prevention plan that considers these triggers, with specifically identified strategies to address them. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an important tool for preventing relapses. It teaches you how to overcome negative thinking, which is often at the heart of a relapse. For example, you might believe that you can’t quit, that recovery takes too much effort, and that you won’t enjoy life as much without alcohol.

By Buddy T

Buddy T is a writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not use his photograph or his real name on this website. By Geralyn Dexter, PhD, LMHC

Geralyn Dexter, PhD, LMHC, is a mental health counselor based in Delray Beach, Florida, with a focus on suicidal ideation, self-harm, help-seeking behavior, and mood disorders. Research shows that the use of drugs and alcohol can alter the brain. Daily drinking can have serious consequences for a person’s health, both in the short- and long-term.

As clients feel more comfortable, they may choose to expand the size of their circle. If you are working toward long-term sobriety and want to avoid having a relapse, it is important to recognize the following warning signs. If you can identify them, you can take action to keep them from progressing into a full-blown relapse.