During recovery, you’re completely changing your priorities. You’re putting down drugs and alcohol in favor of a life of renewed sobriety, health, and possibility. As you go through this transition, it’s not uncommon to think about using again. Addiction used to be the most important thing in your life – it makes sense that it would pull at you from time to time. However, if these thoughts become more constant, you may be at risk of mental relapse.
What is Mental Relapse?
Relapse itself consists of three stages and is defined as the recurrence of a disease after a time of marked improvement. These stages are emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. This means that before someone ever touches drugs or alcohol again, there is an internal battle triggered by any number of factors.
Typically, a major life event or several small stressors will combine to push one’s thoughts towards using again. One of the biggest hallmarks of mental relapse is nostalgia – painting one’s old using days in an overly-positive light. Instead of focusing on the ways that substance use destroyed their relationships and lives, it’s tempting to think about fond memories and old friends associated with drugs and alcohol.
Glamorization of these people, places, and things can take over one’s thoughts and begin to plant the seed of returning to active addiction. Without immediate intervention, the results can be disastrous. Luckily, there are steps you can take to stop the process of mental relapse.
Tips for Avoiding Relapse
- Talk about it. Above all else, don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling. This scenario is exactly what sponsors, meetings, and loved ones are here for. They want nothing more than your sustained sobriety. When your mind chooses to overlook logic, they can help to ground you and work through your impulses safely.
- Get a change of scenery. Believe it or not, boredom and loneliness are two major risk factors for mental relapse. If you find yourself reminiscing about your using days, take the day into your own hands and make a change. Take a brisk walk to get your blood flowing, drive to pick up a favorite meal, or make plans with sober friends. Distract yourself from troublesome thoughts with healthier behaviors.
- Go to a meeting. This step may be obvious to some, but it can be easy to overlook. If your regular meeting isn’t convenient to the time or place where you’re feeling these impulses to use again, try a new meeting. Seeing new faces and hearing new stories can be welcome distractions, and as always, you can share how you’re feeling without fear of judgment.
- Journal, journal, journal. Writing about how you’re feeling can help you to process temptations and emotions independently. If you need to organize your thoughts before speaking to a friend or professional, this is an excellent opportunity to unpack your internal dialogue and list all the positives associated with sobriety.
- Take an exercise break. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck in your head, it can be helpful to go for a quick jog or head to the gym. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins and occupies your body and mind. This is another healthy distraction to substitute for continued reflection on drug or alcohol use.
Know When to Ask for Help
While we stand by the methods listed above, we encourage you to remember that no one does the work of addiction recovery alone. The pull of drugs and alcohol may become stronger and occupy more and more of your thoughts as time goes on. If this is the case, we strongly recommend that you reach out to your sponsor or Segue Recovery to receive immediate help. It’s much easier to stop mental relapse in its tracks when you’re working with highly-trained professionals.
Programs for the Treatment-Resistant
At Segue Recovery, we specialize in healing those who are considered “chronic relapsers” or “treatment resistant.” Our clients work hand-in-hand with recovery managers and participate in aftercare programs proven to promote sustained sobriety. If you’re interested in learning to stay focused and inspired in your addiction recovery, we encourage you to call 866-905-4550 today.