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3 Stages of Relapse: Warning Signs & Symptoms

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3-stages-of-relapse_blogRelapse is a process, and not just a singular trigger or event. Many recovering addicts and alcoholics don’t even know they are about to pick up until it’s too late. The best way to prevent a relapse is to know the process and take the action to prevent it before it’s too late.

The 3 Stages Of Relapse: Emotional, Mental, Physical

Emotional relapse

This stage can be tricky for the recovered addict and alcoholic. This is where the disease of alcoholism and addiction start to talk quietly to the person. Some of the signs and symptoms are:

Intolerance of people, places, and things.

Blaming others for their misfortune or not having any form of gratitude for the things they do have.

Quick to anger or be overly defensive about their behaviors.

Mood swings, uncontrollable anxiety, depression.

Isolation, not reaching to supports or telling people how they really feel.

Not going to meetings, therapy, outpatient groups, or working a program of recovery.

Poor self-care, eating habits, and sleep habits.

These signs and the symptoms can easily be reversed at any time provided the person is willing get honest, be open-minded, and accept help to change.

Many of these symptoms are also very similar to Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), which can last up to two years post-detox. Talking with your sober supports, therapists, and sponsor can help you push through these feelings and continue on your path in recovery.

Mental relapse

A mental relapse is a lot more obvious and is the next stage right before a physical relapse happens. If the addict or alcoholic is denial, it may not be as obvious, so double checking with supports is a great way to see if you need to change a behavior quickly. Also, if you notice a change in your loved one, talking with them in a loving, supportive way may be the push they need in order to help them recognize that they are heading on a dangerous path to drinking or using again. The good news here is that you can stop the relapse before it happens, provided you are willing to take some serious action back into your program of recovery. Signs and symptoms are as follows:

Risky behaviors like hanging out or engaging with old people, places, and things from active addiction days.

Glamorizing the past or acting as if it wasn’t that bad.

Lying, cheating, and stealing.

Justifying why you may need to relapse or planning a relapse.

Not attending any meetings or working a program of recovery.

Giving up on improving oneself in recovery.

Physical relapse

There is only one sign of a physical relapse: drinking or using with the intent to get drunk or high. This can also include taking prescription pills for the purpose of escaping reality, even if the the pills were prescribed for a legitimate cause. Only the person using or drinking will really know if their purpose was to get drunk/high or not.

What If I Don’t Know If I Relapsed?

If you are unsure if you have had a relapse, talking it out with a therapist, sponsor, or sober support network is a great way to determine if you have.

More: How Do I Know If I Had A Relapse?

What Can I Do?

If you feel like you are heading back to drinking or getting high, get honest with your supports. The best defense against using or drinking is taking action in a program of recovery. The simple act of reaching out for help, being honest, open-minded, and willing to do the work can help you from continuing down the path to a drink or a drug.

If you have had a relapse and want help, contact us now at 1-800-861-1768. You are not alone and you can recover after a relapse.


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