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December 21, 2022

The 10 Stages of Relapse

At Hollywood Hills Recovery, we treat hundreds of clients every year. We get much satisfaction by sending newly sober people out the door with hopes of a new life tucked in their pockets.

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December 21, 2022


Unfortunately, we live with the reality that we will see some of our fine clients again because of relapses. As someone new to recovery or going through treatment, you might be under the impression that relapses happen suddenly and sometimes by chance. As addiction treatment professionals, we can tell you that's seldom the case. The path toward recovery is a process that builds over time. We are here to state that many times, the path to relapse also involves a process that builds over time.

Knowing this to be true, we feel it would be prudent to tell you about the ten (10) stages of relapse. It's our feeling that giving you this information increases the chances you will see a relapse coming before it snags you. Recognizing these warning signs is especially important to those at high risk of physical relapse during their addiction recovery journey.


Stage #1 - Denial


As you travel down the path of recovery, you should be content with your progress at all times. It takes a lot of strength and fortitude to battle any substance abuse addiction. At the same time, you might find yourself missing the "old life" in addiction and substance use.

Your first instinct will probably be to deny you are having such thoughts, feelings, or cravings. Don't fall into the trap of denial. You need to give your thoughts and feeling their due in order to face them.


Stage #2 - Avoidance


In this stage, you'll start developing defensiveness by trying to convince yourself that a relapse isn't possible because of the hard work you have been doing to stay sober.

By avoiding your thoughts and feeling, you'll also be avoiding the fact you have coping skills you learned at your disposal for just such occasions. At some point, you might go looking for distractions that might come in the form of other bad behaviors.


Stage #3 - Crisis Building


In this stage, you'll start focusing too much on the introduction of these destructive thoughts and feelings. At some point, you could become obsessed with figuring out how you can stop what you are starting to feel is inevitable. The more you obsess, the more likely you are to find yourself creating an overreaction that wouldn't be a crisis if you weren't locked in the fear of a relapse.


Stage #4 - Immobilization


In this stage, you'll start looking for ways to manage your crisis. The problem is you'll become obsessed with finding solutions, giving you tunnel vision, which will ultimately detract from you actually finding solutions or putting something into motion. You will essentially be immobilized by the fear of relapse.


Stage #5 - Confusion


This is the stage where inner musings will start to become a problem to your well-being. You could find yourself irritated and anxious about everyone and everything around you, as can be expressed through mood swings. Your interpersonal relationships with loved ones or family members will start breaking down as will your ability to stay focused on sobriety. As you start grasping at straws to help you, you'll soon find yourself in the land of confusion.


Stage #6 - Depression


This is the stage in which you will start to show signs of defeat. You'll feel that a relapse is inevitable with no way out, and profound sadness will set in for a lost sobriety that is not yet lost. Mental health is at its most critical as negative feelings  and negative emotions take priority over self-care.It's at this point that anger will build and you'll start building a wall behind which you can hide. Your reluctance to go to meetings or seek help will be on full display. There is also the risk you start having issues with eating a sleeping.


Stage #7 - Behavioral Loss of Control


As depression sets in, you'll soon meet depression's partner apathy. Don't be surprised if your apathy about recovery leads you to question why you even care about being sober. By this time, your confidence will likely be shot. Once your mind has surrendered to relapse, you will be standing at the crossroads of a mental relapse.


Stage #8 - Recognition of Loss of Control


In this stage, all deniability about your thoughts and feeling will go right out the window. You'll recognize that you are on the path to relapse and feel defenseless to do anything about it. At some point, you'll start avoiding people in your life, thinking your relapse destination will be obvious to others. Every aspect of your life will feel unmanageable.


Stage #9 - Option Reduction


Once you reach this stage, you will have isolated yourself from everyone and everything. You'll feel a whole range of emotions, all of which will be leading you to a singular conclusion. That conclusion will be that there is only one way to remove all of the bad thoughts and feelings. That one way, as you might have guessed, is turning to your substance of choice.


Stage #10 - Acute Relapse Period


In this final stage, you'll take the leap, sensing it's the only thing left for you to do. Once you use your substance of choice the first time, each subsequent time will be easier. At the same time, you can expect to feel a wave of guilt and shame. Many people say they felt much more ashamed about relapsing than they did regarding their substance abuse prior to treatment.

At Hollywood Hill Recovery, we see clients go through this relapse process time and again. Having stated that, you need to know you are not alone. Addiction is a powerful foe and many people relapse in the battle against it. The strength lies in the people who will contact us and ask to get right back on their recovery program.

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