Many people believe that relapse simply describes the final act of retaking a drug after a period of deliberate sobriety.
When you think of it this way, you can misunderstand relapse prevention as simply learning to say no, or stopping yourself just before using; however, relapse can be divided into three stages. Prevention is an involved process that occurs before and during each stage.
1. Emotional Relapse:
This is the first stage and is characterized by the unhealthy handling of emotions related to drug use. When someone is going through an emotional relapse, they will often deny their true feelings of struggling with heroin addiction. Look for these signs:
- Suppressing your emotions
- Isolating from friends and family
- Failing to attend support group meetings
- Attending support group meetings but not sharing experiences
- Over-focusing on other people, their problems, or how they affect you
- Not eating or sleeping well
The most common characteristic we see in emotional relapse is people not keeping up with self-care. This can either be physical habits (i.e. eating, sleeping, personal hygiene) or emotional ones (i.e. being kind to yourself, having fun, connecting with others).
2. Mental Relapse
Mental relapse is the stage when thoughts about drug use fully resurface. This stage is characterized as a battle between two sides of a person. Part of you will want to use heroin, and part of you will be fighting back. This is not the same as the brief, occasional thoughts about using the drug that occurs throughout recovery and are positively overcome. This voice is constantly debating and seems to have a justification for everything. As you circle deep into mental relapse, the healthy voice loses its strength.