How to Return to Detox After Relapsing

in Addiction
Morgan Metzger
Published Dec 23, 2020
return to detox after relapse

Those recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) may experience a relapse at some point in their recovery. A relapse is when somebody returns to substance use after a period of abstinence. Although feelings of guilt and shame may be attached to relapse, it is essential to remember that your progress is not erased, and you can return to treatment if necessary. However, there are various ways to help you recognize and avoid relapse.

Lapse vs. Relapse

The difference between a lapse and a relapse is dependent on the individual. A lapse is typically a single, unplanned use of alcohol or drugs unforeseen and catches an individual off guard. It may reflect a gap in a recovery plan. On the other hand, a relapse often occurs gradually when an individual in recovery drifts away from healthy behaviors and slips back into old patterns. Whether an individual experiences a lapse or relapse, they should speak with their support group or recovery team to get advice on their next steps.

A lapse may occur by unknowingly consuming drugs or alcohol. For example, an individual may order tonic water at a restaurant but get served a vodka tonic instead. In this instance, alcohol use was an accident. If an individual is in a support group when this happens, they may not have to “start over” and be able to continue recovery as usual.

Temptation and cravings may be hard to resist. A lapse can happen when an individual is at a Christmas party, family gathering, or out with friends where everybody around them is drinking. They may be offered a drink and not refuse it or decide to make themselves a drink along with family members or friends. In this case, it may be best to start counting sobriety from day one. However, it is not impossible to continue recovery as usual.

When an individual starts using substances again and does not return to recovery right away, this is a relapse. Relapse may occur over a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years. However, just like a lapse, it is entirely possible to return to recovery.

The Warning Signs of Relapse

Relapse is a process, not an event, and it can occur long before an individual begins to use substances again. There are various stages of relapse. The first sign of relapse is the return of justification. An individual may start to think, “I can just have one drink.” Following these thoughts, they may begin to engage in high-risk situations. An individual may also start to experience feelings of anxiety or fear and ignore them. By ignoring these feelings, the individual may feel as if they will never use substances again. When this feeling arises, they may feel as if they no longer need to participate in their recovery.

Another warning sign of relapse is impulsive behavior. Someone may not be engaging with substances but may “replace” their addiction with other unhealthy behaviors. These may include gambling, sex, unhealthy eating habits, or shopping. Sometimes these impulsive actions can cause severe damage in life.

Isolation is a common factor in relapse. Avoiding people or places may result in feelings of loneliness. Instead of coping with these feelings of loneliness, someone may continue to engage in impulsive behaviors to make themselves feel better.

Feelings of depression that go untreated can also lead to relapse. Through recovery, an individual may have learned various coping methods to deal with negative emotions. When they do not use these coping methods, symptoms of depression may worsen. Depression may include irregular eating habits, lack of desire to take action, erratic sleeping habits, and loss of daily structure.

After leaving detox, you may encounter triggers, including people you used to use with, places you used to go, and other things attached to your using. Triggers cause an emotional response that may be uncomfortable and can lead an individual to use substances again.

How to Prevent Relapse

Relapse prevention includes changing your behavior once you recognize warning signs. The most important thing you can do to prevent relapse is to practice self-care. Self-care may consist of healthy eating, consistent sleeping habits, taking a walk, or a bubble bath. Drugs and alcohol help an individual escape or relax. Practicing self-care instead can alleviate these urges.

If you run into cravings, there are ways to help cope with them and avoid relapse. “Playing the tape through” can be crucial in preventing relapse. To do so, an individual must remember where their substance use took them before they got sober. Remembering the destruction and harm caused can help an individual conclude that using substances may not be worth it.

It may also be helpful to tell another individual about your cravings and the feelings you are experiencing. Call a friend, family member, a sponsor, or another individual in recovery. Sharing what you feel can help negative emotions dissipate, and feelings of loneliness subside.

Taking recovery one day at a time is vital. Thinking about staying abstinent from substances forever can cause intense feelings of anxiety. Even those who have been in recovery for an extended time may get overwhelmed by this thought. Instead, think about staying sober just for today. If one day seems too long, you can even take recovery hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute. Reframing the mind to think this way can help with overwhelming thoughts.

Returning to Detox

When relapse occurs, an individual may feel scared, disappointed, confused, and unsure of what to do next. The most important thing to remember is that relapse happens and that it does not equate to failure. It may be necessary to return to detox after a relapse. If substance use has occurred over a long period, then there is a risk of harmful withdrawal symptoms, which can be uncomfortable and even life-threatening. An individual should not be afraid to return to detox after relapse and should see it as a conscious and deliberate choice in the interest of living substance-free.

Relapse can happen while in recovery. It is crucial to educate yourself on the warning signs of relapse and create a relapse prevention plan. However, if you relapse, your progress is not lost. It is still possible to get back on the road to recovery and enter treatment if necessary. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we can help you with your detox process. Withdrawal may be uncomfortable, frightening, and even life-threatening. We use proprietary, evidence-based medical protocols that prioritize our patients’ comfort and safety to guide them through the detox process. Our personalized treatment is delivered in a safe and peaceful environment. Gallus Medical Detox Centers also provides you with a bio-psycho-social evaluation with our expert staff to identify your next steps and resources to achieve long-term recovery. If you are a loved one has relapsed and wishes to get back on the journey to recovery, call Gallus Medical Detox Centers at (866) 296-5242.