Stages of Relapse: A Self Evaluation Checklist

Addiction is a chronic condition, and not surprisingly, people who are in recovery relapse to their dysfunctional behaviors at a rate similar to that seen in other people who have chronic conditions. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that 30 to 50 percent of people who have type 1 diabetes relapse to poor eating or poor exercise habits. Similarly, 40 to 60 percent of people who have drug addiction relapse to drug use. Relapse is just part of the package when a chronic condition is in play. But people who relapse don’t awaken one morning and simply choose to return to their old ways. Instead, they tend to follow a set of reasonable, measurable steps that lead them from sobriety to relapse.

Knowing what these stages are, and learning how to spot the self in this progression, could help someone in recovery to stay sober.

This article will outline the stages of relapse outlined by Terry Gorski in 2001. If you spot your symptoms on this checklist, we urge you to contact us to find out more about how treatment might help you to recover.

Early Warning Signs

If you’re in this particular phase, you might experience:

Middle Ground

If you’re caught in this phase, you might be dealing with:

  • An emotional trigger that produces a response that seems somehow magnified or unusual
  • An intensifying feeling of pain
  • The sensation that control over life is slipping away, little by little
  • Insomnia or restlessness
  • A lack of motivation to work on recovery

Growing Danger

If you’re in this part of the relapse process, you’re likely dealing with:

  • An expanded suite of problems; when one is resolved, a new one appears
  • A rising sensation of stress
  • Fond memories of the days spent using
  • A refusal to participate in addiction recovery steps, such as going to meetings or dealing with therapy

A Small Step

At this point, the stress can become overwhelming, and you might choose to make a bad decision, such as:

  • Spending time in bars or drug dens
  • Calling up old drug-using friends
  • Purchasing drug-using paraphernalia, just in case
  • Feeling the need to use, just to make the pain stop
  • Glamorizing the days spent using drugs
  • Dreaming about drugs

Losing Control

When the pain rises and rises, with no relief in sight, a relapse to drug use can seem reasonable or even inevitable. At this point, you might:

  • Use drugs once and promise never to do so again
  • Use drugs again, with the same promise
  • Find that it’s hard to stop using once you’ve started
  • Experience deep shame or anger

Seeing yourself on this checklist may not be easy, and it might make you worry about your future. While being concerned is always a good idea, it’s important to remember that relapses don’t have to end in tragedy. In fact, there’s a great deal that you can learn from a movement to relapse, and sometimes you might even be able to prevent a full-blown relapse by just being honest about what you’re seeing and what you’d like to do about it.

We’d like to help. Please call us, no matter where you are on this relapse checklist.

Our admissions coordinators are available to help connect you with an appropriate treatment program that can help. The call is confidential, and it could make all the difference. We hope you’ll reach out.

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