Was it a Slip or a Relapse? Knowing When to Return to Treatment

by Mia Williams, MS |

Feelings of Uncertainty After Rehab

Many people in recovery have been there. You’ve gone through a treatment program and completed it successfully—and then you relapsed. Or, you’ve had some success in using your newfound tools to stay clean, but lately you feel like you’re struggling.

Now you’re asking yourself: should I go back to treatment?

Knowing the Difference Between a Slip-up and a Relapse

Many people in recovery face situations that challenge their sobriety. In some cases, that means using once and never again. In others, it means falling back into addictive patterns and needing to go through a full treatment program again.

Although relapse is often a part of the recovery process, a one-time mistake doesn’t mean that you’re falling back in the grips of addiction. There’s a difference between a momentary slip-up and a full-blown relapse.

In a slip-up, you have used one time and were able to rebound quickly. You are usually able to cope with temptations effectively and get back on track toward sobriety.

On the other hand, you may be relapsing when you struggle to manage your drug and alcohol use. You may have a desire to stop using, but it has become extremely difficult or impossible to quit. If you’re concerned that you’ve lost control of your sobriety, going back to a treatment program is worth considering.

Signs That It’s Time to Seek Treatment Again

No matter how confused or overwhelmed you may feel, there are ways of determining whether you should return to rehab.

If you’re struggling with any of the issues below, going back to a treatment center should be strongly considered.

  • You’re trying to do it alone.

    There hasn’t been any accountability or guidance within your life recently. This may mean that you’ve stopped going to support groups or you are no longer communicating with your sponsor or therapist.

  • You’re having a hard time using new coping skills.

    Managing stress seems difficult lately. You also may be self-medicating by abusing drugs, alcohol or even food.

  • You are starting to become ambivalent.

    Your passion for staying sober and most other things is starting to wane. The enthusiasm that you had when you left treatment the first time is gone.

  • You have lost sight of your goals.

    You don’t write down your goals or reflect on progress made in your recovery. You may have even given up on your goals entirely.

  • You are becoming less cautious of your triggers.

    You may be spending time with people you used to hang out with when using, or putting yourself in situations that will cause you to relapse.

  • You’re pursuing unhealthy relationships.

    Surrounding yourself with codependent friends, family members or romantic partners can be emotionally detrimental. Spending too much time with these individuals can increase the risk of relapse.

  • You are struggling with flashbacks or painful memories.

    You may find it difficult to focus on positive thoughts these days. Instead, you are replaying past dramas and reliving the hurt that came from them.

  • You are not practicing any kind of spirituality.

    Spirituality, in whatever way you chose to express it, can help change negative thoughts and behaviors. For example, you’ve stopped attending religious or spiritual services, or reading motivational materials.

  • You are not taking care of yourself physically.

    You find yourself eating more fast food and sweets than balanced meals and whole foods. You may also have stopped exercising regularly.

  • You are doing things in excess and having a hard time controlling it.

    You no longer feel that you are living your life in a balanced manner. This can include overeating fatty foods or consuming too much caffeine. If you smoke, you may be increasing the number of cigarettes you have in a day. This can also include excessive gambling or sexual activity.

  • You find yourself feeling depressed more often.

    You may be starting to experience more negative emotions than positive ones. Negative emotions can include excessive feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, fear, anxiety and hopelessness. You may also be feeling a deep sense of frustration for no apparent reason.

The La Vista Center in La Vista, CA encourages openness and trust. Part of that process is keeping a relationship and accountability with participants through monthly gatherings.

Now is the Time to Act

Going back into treatment, if that is what you need, can be a tremendously rewarding experience. Once you have made the decision to return, you’ve conquered half the battle. Remember, you have advantages that those who are new to treatment do not have yet. You know the routine. You also know what’s expected, what works, and most importantly, what doesn’t. That’s power. Take that power and begin again.

Photo of Mia Williams, MS

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