Addiction is a recurring brain disease. This means people in recovery must stay vigilant to avoid relapsing into active substance abuse. Learning relapse prevention strategies is part of any successful recovery program.

But what most people don’t realize is that a relapse is not just “something that happens”, nor is it inevitable.

Rather, relapse tends to happen gradually, in stages. And the first stage is emotional relapse.

Emotional Relapse Defined

Because it is the earliest stage, during emotional relapse you have not yet even started to think about drinking or using. Instead, you are experiencing negative emotions and acting in self-destructive ways that can undermine and jeopardize your continued recovery.

Signs of Emotional Relapse

Some of the “red flag” emotions include:

  • Anxiety – overwhelming uncertainty or fear about your new, sober life
  • Intolerance – rigid, uncompromising ideas; refusal to cooperate with others or accept new ideas
  • Anger – feelings of resentment that flare up whenever something doesn’t go exactly as you would like
  • Defensiveness – reacting to any criticism with hostility
  • Mood Swings – having no control over how you feel

Some of the dysfunctional behaviors include:

  • Social Isolation – avoiding friends and family; purposely spending all of your time alone
  • Refusing to ask for help – trying to “do it all” without assistance, especially when you KNOW that you need help
  • Poor Meeting Attendance – finding excuses to not go to 12-Step (AA/NA/Celebrate Recovery) meetings or outpatient counseling sessions
  • Unhealthy Eating Habits – eating as a response to emotional pain or stress; eating only fast food or junk; alternately, loss of appetite
  • Disrupted Sleep Patterns – insomnia, poor quality sleep; alternately, excessive sleeping, usually because of depression

Avoiding Emotional Relapse

There are 3 keys to avoid emotional relapse and other, more progressive stages:

  1. Self-Awareness –This means actively practicing better knowledge of your moods and emotions.
  2. Self-Care –This simply means making it a habit to do those things that are necessary for your physical and emotional well-being.
  • Eating right
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Stress Reduction
  • Getting enough restful sleep
  1. Ask for help –Addiction is too big a problem to tackle alone. Accepting help from positive and supportive people gives you additional resources and keeps you from feeling isolated.

Pulling back from emotional relapse keeps you away from the next, more dangerous step –, where you actually start about using or drinking again.

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