Should I Go Back to Rehab After Relapse?

Drug addiction and alcoholism are complex and progressive diseases that require constant dedication and practice to recover. If you suffer from a substance use disorder, you know that attending professional treatment is the best way to learn how to maintain long-term recovery. However, you also probably know that relapse is a part of many people’s stories.

Maintaining long-term sobriety requires focus and dedication. Sometimes, things get in the way of a person’s recovery. Whether it’s a personal tragedy or work, life can get in the way from time to time. If you were to slack on your recovery maintenance techniques, it is more than possible that you will experience a relapse.

Relapsing on drugs or alcohol can be scary. Knowing what to do in a situation like that can be difficult, especially if you’ve never experienced a relapse before. If you are wondering whether you should go back to rehab after a relapse, know that recovery is a highly personal decision, but anyone can benefit from treatment.

What is Relapse?

Defining relapse can be tricky, as it often occurs in stages. However, understanding what the success factors of treatment are can help you better understand relapse as a whole. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, effective drug addiction treatment includes:[1]

  • Reducing the use of the primary drug, drugs, or alcohol.
  • Increasing employment status or prospects of the patient.
  • Improving the patient’s educational situation, if needed.
  • Increasing positive relationships with family, friends, employers, and other associates.
  • Improving the patient’s medical condition and overall health.
  • Improving the person’s legal situation as needed.
  • Treating and managing the patient’s mental health condition.
  • Reducing the person’s noncriminal safety incidents, such as car accidents, injuries, and emergency room visits.

When someone relapses, they either did not receive the effective principles of treatment or stopped using their recovery maintenance techniques. To define relapse simply, this occurs when you return to using drugs after a period of abstinence. 

Relapse usually doesn’t happen overnight. According to the National Library of Medicine, “Relapse is a gradual process that begins weeks and sometimes months before an individual picks up a drink or drug. There are three stages to relapse: emotional, mental, and physical.”[2]

What are the Stages of Relapse?

Relapse occurs in three stages: emotional, mental, and physical. The final stage of relapse is when you pick up the drink or drug and actually use it. The first two stages of relapse are characterized by emotions and thoughts surrounding drug use. 

The three stages of relapse are:

1. Emotional

This is the first stage of relapse. During this stage, you will not even be thinking about using drugs or alcohol. Instead, your emotions and behaviors are beginning to set you up for a relapse down the road. 

The warning signs of emotional relapse include:

  • Bottling up emotions
  • Not attending recovery support meetings
  • Isolating from friends and family 
  • Going to meetings but not participating 
  • Focusing on other people’s problems to avoid your own 
  • Not managing your emotions (anger, anxiety, sadness, etc) in a healthy manner 
  • Being defensive
  • Experiencing mood swings 
  • Not asking for help when you need it 
  • Not having fun sober or taking time for self-care 

2. Mental 

If you ignore the signs of emotional relapse, the mental relapse stage will begin soon after. Once you begin this stage of relapse, the physical act of relapsing is not far away. During this stage, your mental resistance to using drugs as an escape will begin to diminish, as you start to fantasize about using drugs or alcohol to soothe your emotions. 

Signs of mental relapse include:

  • Cravings or urges to use drugs or alcohol 
  • Thinking about things associated with past drug use 
  • Thinking of scenarios where it would be acceptable to use (bargaining)
  • Hanging out with old friends you used to use drugs with 
  • Minimizing the consequences of past drug use 
  • Glamorizing drug use or the lifestyle that came with it 
  • Lying 
  • Thinking of ways to control drug or alcohol use 
  • Planning your relapse 

3. Physical 

If the emotional and mental stages of relapse are not corrected, they will lead to the final stage of relapse. This is the physical stage, where you will actually begin using drugs. When people think of a drug and alcohol relapse, this is what they picture. 

Should You Go Back to Rehab After a Relapse?

Relapsing can be extremely dangerous and avoiding attending rehab again can lead to fatal consequences. 

When you stopped using drugs, you were accustomed to the number of drugs you were using after building a tolerance. If you relapse and begin using drugs again, you may attempt to use the same amount of a substance that you could handle before getting sober. This can lead to a life-threatening overdose. 

Because of situations like the one mentioned above, going to rehab again is extremely important if you relapse. Relapsing means you either missed something you needed during treatment or forgot how to maintain your sobriety. Going back to treatment can provide you a recap of recovery maintenance tools and techniques to re-learn how to maintain long-term sobriety. Rehab can also help you pinpoint what caused your relapse so you don’t make the same mistakes again.

Finding Help for a Drug or Alcohol Relapse

If you or a loved one experienced a relapse after a period of sobriety from drugs and alcohol, you can benefit from an addiction treatment program. Avoiding going back to rehab could cost you your life, making this decision imperative for your safety. 

Drug and alcohol rehab centers like Moving Mountains Recovery can help you learn how to successfully maintain long-term sobriety and teach you relapse prevention skills that can stop this from occurring again. Contact us today for more information on how to get started. 


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