Do I Need to Return to Rehab if I Relapse on Drugs or Alcohol?

woman going back to rehab after a relapse

Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease, meaning relapse is common and, without treatment, the condition worsens as time goes on. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the relapse rate for substance use disorders is between 40-60%. While people who suffer from a relapse often deal with feelings of guilt and shame, individuals must realize that this is often a part of people’s recovery journeys.

While relapse is relatively common, it is still extremely dangerous. Oftentimes, people forget to take into account that their tolerance has diminished during recovery. When they relapse, they end up using the same amount as before they got sober, causing them to experience an overdose.

While it is normal to not want to return to rehab after a relapse, doing so could save your life by helping you get back on track. If you relapse, you may want to consider going back to rehab so you can understand what caused your relapse and how to prevent it from happening again in the future.

What is an Addiction Relapse?

Addiction relapse is a term that describes returning to substance abuse after a period of intentional abstinence. For example, if you went to rehab, achieved 6 months of sobriety, and then began using drugs again, you experienced a relapse.

There are three stages of addiction relapse that you should be aware of: emotional, mental, and physical.

The first stage is an emotional relapse, which occurs when you stop managing your emotions in healthy ways. The next stage is mental relapse when you begin to romanticize substance abuse and start thinking about using drugs or alcohol again. The last stage of relapse is physical relapse, which occurs when you actually use drugs or alcohol.

Some people differentiate between a “lapse” and a “relapse.” A “lapse” is described as a temporary or one-time return to substance abuse while a relapse is described as a return to continuous drug and alcohol abuse. If you experience a lapse, doubling down on your recovery maintenance techniques and meeting with your sponsor more often might be enough to get you back on track. However, when most people experience a “lapse,” they lose control of their substance use, causing them to return to the same addictive behaviors they had before they got sober in the first place.

Whether you’ve experienced a lapse or a relapse, treatment can help you get back on the path toward recovery.

What Should You Do When You Relapse?

If you experience a full-blown relapse, there are several steps you should take. Relapses can be extremely dangerous if you have been sober for an extended period because your tolerance has decreased, and small doses of substances can be fatal even if they didn’t used to be before.

You must take all of the necessary steps to stay safe and get back on track in your recovery. If you experience an addiction relapse, you should:

Call Your Sponsor or a Member of your Support Group

The first thing you should do when you relapse is contact your sponsor or a trusted friend. Sponsors are individuals who guide you through your addiction recovery outside of treatment. If you are a member of a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), you will have a sponsor who supports you and guides you through the 12 steps. If you don’t have a sponsor, call a trusted friend or family member who can hold you accountable.

Calling a friend and telling them about your relapse will ensure that someone else knows what you are going through. Experiencing a relapse is always dangerous, but it’s even worse when no one is aware of your substance abuse.

Once you speak with your sponsor or loved one, they will be able to give you advice on what steps you should take next. They can also provide you with the emotional support and motivation that you need to get back on track.

Remove Yourself From Triggers

Once you have spoken with your sponsor, you should remove yourself from any situation that is causing you to crave substances. For example, if you relapse while you were hanging out with old friends, you should stop spending time with those people and other negative influences. Instead, you should focus on making sober friends.

Go Back to Rehab

If you’re wondering what to do after relapse, the best choice is to return to rehab. People usually experience relapses because they neglected their aftercare or did not receive the education and tools they needed to maintain long-term sobriety.

Signs that it’s time to go back to rehab include:

  • Relapsing on drugs or alcohol more than once
  • Feeling as though you can’t stop on your own
  • Your friends and family are worried about you
  • You’ve tried to stop on your own but weren’t successful
  • You’re neglecting your responsibilities
  • You feel immense shame, guilt, or embarrassment about your relapse

While reentering addiction treatment is always the best choice, there are some practical matters you should consider. Before returning to treatment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will your insurance cover the cost of treatment?
  • How long do you need to attend rehab this time?
  • Have you identified the reasons for your relapse?
  • Should you go back to the same program or choose another one?
  • Are you committed to recovery or are you considering treatment to please your loved ones?

Once you have determined that treatment is necessary, you should consult with a professional. If you still attend therapy, it might be a good idea to speak with your therapist about returning to rehab. They can help guide you in the right direction and provide you with emotional support during your transition back into substance abuse treatment.

What to Expect When You Go Back to Rehab After a Relapse

Addiction treatment centers are able to accommodate the needs of people who have relapsed. Behavioral relapse prevention therapy can help you pinpoint negative behaviors that contributed to your relapse. Your therapist will help you reflect on the days, weeks, and months before your relapse so you can identify exactly what went wrong.

Once you have a thorough understanding of the causes behind your relapse, you can alter your relapse prevention plan accordingly. This may involve going to more meetings, going to outpatient counseling, developing a support group, or making healthy lifestyle changes. Understanding your relapse will help you prevent additional relapses in the future.

Returning to rehab after a relapse is the best thing you can do for your recovery. Rehab can help you change the way you view your relapse so you no longer feel guilt or shame about it. Instead, you’ll learn how to look at your past relapse(s) as a learning experience–one that taught you valuable lessons about sobriety.

Find Help Today

If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction relapse, help is available. Going back to rehab can provide you with the support and tools you need to maintain long-term recovery successfully.

At Sheer Recovery, we pride ourselves on providing each client with the highest level of support and treatment available. We make this possible by using a 6-bed patient model, ensuring that everyone receives highly individualized and one-on-one care.

To learn more about our highly-rated addiction treatment program in Southern California, contact Sheer Recovery today.


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