Part of the definition of addiction to alcohol and drugs includes the fact that it is a relapsing disease. That means that while it is not necessarily a fact that all people will relapse, it does happen with a frequency that cannot and should not be ignored. But what is relapse, or the relapse process? Here are some key concepts to take a look at.
As a start let's look at the difference between abstinence and being in recovery.
Abstinence: Being abstinent means to stop taking all mood altering chemicals completely. A person who just stops using and nothing else is abstinent.
Recovery: Being in recovery means that a person has engaged in a process or program of rehabilitation that starts with abstinence and involves identifying and changing thoughts, feelings, and actions, which results in major lifestyle and value changes.
Relapse process: A series of internal thoughts or feelings and outside events after starting a recovery program that can cause a person to return to using alcohol or drugs. In other words, it is the gradual return of old attitudes and behaviors that occur in the time before picking up the drink or drug, not afterwards.
Relapse justification: This is the rationalization or creation of thoughts that make it seem okay to return to using alcohol or drugs after starting a recovery program. For example: I wasn't really that bad, or I've feeling so much better, surely just one or two couldn't hurt.
Relapse warning signs: There are many identifiable red flags and warning signs. A good indicator is becoming restless, irritable and discontent. When that state exists, thoughts, feelings, and actions can be triggered by a situation or condition that lead can lead to alcohol or drug use. For example: passing by your favorite bar may trigger thoughts of drinking, these can lead to justification, such as, I'll just stop in for one.
Relapse prevention: This process that helps a person to identify relapse triggers and change thoughts, feelings, and actions that have the potential to lead back to active alcohol and drug use. Counseling or a 12 step program can be of tremendous help with this essential component of recovery.
And there are many more aspects to relapse prevention aside from simple definitions. We have assembled some very detailed information for your use.