Stress and relapsing from addiction recovery are closely connected because without strong mental health and proper self-care, our decision-making is impaired.
What is a Relapse in Addiction Recovery?
The road to recovery from diseases like drug addiction or alcohol addiction is an ongoing process that will take a long time. One or more relapses are not an uncommon part of that journey, and it’s those recovering from drug or alcohol addiction are often counseled to view relapse as part of the process for many people.
A relapse is when someone in recovery stops actively working toward their goal of non-use and begins using and abusing substances again. It is differentiated from an event known as a lapse, by the level of use that the individual returns to. During a lapse, someone in recovery from alcohol addiction may knowingly or unknowingly have a sip or even a small drink, then immediately return to their original goals of sobriety and recovery.
A relapse, however, is more of a process. Relapsing involves returning to the prior habits or use, while also stopping the maintenance of their recovery goals entirely, and not returning to them. This degree of use or abuse can vary significantly from a lapse, or they can be the same, depending on the specifics of the individual and addiction profile.
Just as each addiction and journey to recovery can be intensely personal, so can relapsing. The reasons behind them, as well as the triggers that the individual feel can be highly personal. This is one reason that it’s important for anyone in recovery to remember that lapsing or relapsing are not indications that you are failing in your goals or are weak, they are simply a flare-up of a symptom of your disease, and must be managed appropriately, eventually being replaced with healthier coping mechanisms.
Stress presents the biggest risk of relapse, and as such, it’s important for those learning about recovery to understand. Being able to effectively cope with the effects of stress can drastically reduce the potential relapse rate. For those who experience chronic stress or exposure to stressful events, more effective stress management is vital to the recovery process.
Types of Stress
There are countless types of stress, and they range from relatively universal down to highly personal and niche types. Here are some of the most common types of stress:
- Family stress resulting from interpersonal or interhousehold dynamics
- Work stress can make recovery challenging
- Personal relationship stresses
- School or educational stress
- Financial stress, is probably one of the most universal types of stress
- Health or medical stress, another type that is becoming more popular every day
Physical and Psychological Warning Signs of Stress
It’s crucial to remember that stress can be managed relatively easily if it is recognized and addressed with effective and healthy coping skills. Stress can be responsible for pushing someone to make big, beneficial changes in their life, but it can also be responsible for sending people firmly on the road to recovery, back to using substances.
Stress can create a wide range of symptoms in those living with it, however, some of the most common symptoms will include:
- Pain in the neck and shoulders
- Grinding teeth
- Stomach problems
- Gaining or losing weight
- Using alcohol or other substances recreationally
- Feelings of anxiety or panic
- Difficulty focusing & concentrating
- Emotional instability & mood swings
Can Stress be Managed to Avoid a Relapse?
Stress not only can be managed to prevent future relapse but developing solid, healthy coping skills for stress can make the entire recovery process go much more smoothly. As noted by the APA, there are some forms of stress that can be beneficial, but tips for managing stress are also essential to helping get through stressful times and events without relapsing. Some additional stress-management methods include:
- Meditation – Meditation has been shown to lower levels of stress and feelings of anxiety and panic. There are many types of medication that can be used, with the simplest often being breathing mindfully.
- Maintain relationships – One of the consequences of addiction is damaging and even losing many of your personal, professional, and even family relationships. Maintaining and improving your relationships with those close to you can not only reduce stress, but it can help strengthen the support network for your overall recovery.
- Have fun – Make sure you are associating with people that make you laugh and make your life better. This is one of the most powerful ways to lower stress and strengthen recovery.
- Be active – Keep moving, and keep your mind and body active. This is a great way to keep yourself distracted from stressful events that may be happening around you.
The Link Between Addiction and Stress
There is a strong correlation between poor stress management and resulting addiction. Stress during childhood can also raise the chances of developing addictive behavior later in life.
In many cases, drug and alcohol users even put themselves into stressful situations on a subconscious basis, so that there is increased justification for usage or relapse. It sets a trend for the user as well, since they now associate drug or alcohol use with lower stress, they begin to use that as their default coping mechanism. This also creates a much stronger association between drugs and stress relief in their body.
Ways to Get Help with Addiction Management
One of the most popular ways to get help for addiction and learn how to more effectively manage stress is to enter one of several types of treatment programs. There are outpatient programs and partial care programs, and for those with the most serious and intensive needs, an inpatient program is the best choice.
Inpatient programs have the patient check in and live at the facility for a period of time. This allows them to focus heavily on treatment and recovery. If you think this sounds right for you, get more information on inpatient treatment.