Can Re-Entering Treatment After Relapse Be Beneficial?

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Relapse doesn't have to be a part of your recovery journey, but it can be. You are not a failure if it does become a part of your journey. As an inherently flawed human, you are allowed to make mistakes and have slip-ups. Relapse gives you a chance to learn from your mistakes and can create space for emotional growth. 

You are bound to encounter obstacles during your recovery journey. While these obstacles serve as learning opportunities, sometimes you might find yourself needing some help to work through them. It is always okay to ask for more help. This does not mean that you've failed.

Revisiting Treatment Post-Relapse

Relapse doesn't mean that you failed, and it also doesn't mean that your treatment failed. It means that your treatment needs to be adjusted for your current circumstances. As you change and grow during your recovery, your treatment plan needs to reflect these changes. 

There might be different areas of support that you hadn't previously addressed in treatment. Alternatively, there might be areas you focused on the last time you were in treatment that no longer need to be a primary focus. 

Relapse Autopsy

A relapse autopsy is a form some treatment facilities might have you fill out before re-entering treatment. This will help them as well as you understand your recovery needs by understanding what led to your relapse. Like retracing your steps, you'll have to work backward to see what behaviors and thoughts led you to relapse in the first place. 

This will mean identifying your decisions, choices, and behaviors that led to your relapse. The more you understand about how you relapsed, the easier it will be to learn new treatments and skills to prevent it in the future. There are several stages of relapse before a physical relapse occurs. 

3 Stages of Relapse

There are three stages of relapse: emotional, mental, and physical. The earlier you notice the signs of relapse, the easier it will be to recover and get back on track in your recovery journey. However, that being said, it is never too late to get back on the right path to recovery. Knowing the stages of relapse can serve as a preventive measure or as a tool in post-relapse treatment.

#1. Emotional Stage

During an emotional relapse, the thought of using has yet to enter your mind. At this stage, you may be slipping back into old damaging habits of coping with your emotions or slipping back into old harmful behaviors. Slip-ups are bound to happen, but the most damaging part of this step is denial. 

Suppressing your emotions and becoming distant in group meetings will make your emotional relapse worse. The best thing you can do during this stage of relapse is to acknowledge you need help and rely on your support system to help you during distressing times.

#2. Mental Stage

This stage of relapse is when the thought of using again enters your mind. Initially, you'll be at war with yourself. You'll have the desire to use substances again but still acknowledge that the consequences aren't worth it. However, as you descend further into mental relapse, your resistance will weaken. Some signs of mental relapse include:

  • Cravings
  • Obsessing over things related to past use
  • Bargaining
  • Lying
  • Scheming to better control using
  • Looking for relapse opportunities
  • Planning to relapse

During this phase, you might catch yourself using false logic to talk yourself back into using substances again. Practicing mindfulness can help you catch yourself in the act of mental relapse.

#3. Physical Stage

At this stage of relapse, you have physically begun using substances again. Some consider this as the stage before chronic relapse. However, many people consider physical and chronic relapse to be the same stage. Regardless, getting on the right track to recovery is easier before chronic relapse occurs. 

Signs You Need to Re-Enter a Treatment Program

You don't need to physically relapse to go back to an intensive treatment program. If you notice yourself slipping back into negative behaviors or that your emotional management tools have become ineffective, you might want to seek more intensive treatment. 

Whenever you feel like you've hit a block in your recovery, talk to your mental health professional about it. See what they recommend. Sometimes you'll be able to get through distressing situations with just the help of your current outpatient treatment and the support of your peers, friends, and family. Be honest with how you feel. It's okay if you need more support.

Benefits of Re-Entering a Treatment Program

Attending a treatment program after relapse will be different than the first time around. For starters, you will be different. You'll be going into treatment with emotional tools already underneath your belt. As a person who has experience in recovery, you'll have an idea about what treatments have and haven't worked for you. Since you know what to expect, you'll be able to fully absorb all the treatment program has to offer. 

Re-entering a treatment program after relapsing can help you get back on the right track in your recovery. Relapsing is not a failure of you or the treatment you went through but a sign that your treatment needs adjustment. At Pathways Recovery Center, we pride ourselves on creating a non-judgemental space that will help you heal after relapse. Our relapse autopsy will help you get the most benefit from our treatment program and help our mental health professionals understand what you need to prevent future relapse. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call Pathways Recovery Center at (888) 771-0966 to learn how we can meet you where you are in recovery.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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