What does that mean to you? To me, it means that relapse doesn’t “just happen.” There are warning signs along they way – large and small. This is why our residents are rigorously educated to be able to identify their warning signs along the way. It may be surprising to you that many people experience relapse warning signs even while in treatment! Some clinicians will separate the process into three stages – emotional relapse, mental relapse and physical relapse. Life happens. When life is barreling toward us and we feel hopeless and helpless, we may be heading toward an emotional relapse.
This generally means that even if you aren’t thinking about relapse, the exhaustion from managing life’s stressors may be wearing you down. This is one reason why the support of others is so important – seeking a lending hand or a listening ear can keep you from moving into the stage of mental relapse. In this stage, you may have had fleeting thoughts about using “just once.” You might be thinking about when you used last, or even glamorizing your past use. In this stage, it is important to tell someone!
Many residents at the AToN Center have shared that talking about those thoughts have really helped them. Playing the tape through, writing a Cost Benefit Analysis (see the SMART Recovery Workbook), or going to meetings are also great options. Without some sort of intervention, it often does not take too long before you may begin planning a relapse. At this point, it is not too late to stop! However, individuals tend to be more successful in recovery when they take strong action in stages one and two.
Many will say, “once I want to relapse, nothing is going to stop me!” It is also important to remember, if you do slip (or relapse), you STILL can stop! Don’t let one mistake turn into two, and so on.
What are your relapse warning signs? What coping strategies do you use that have helped you?
Dr. Cassandra Cannon