Recovery Video: Relapse Prevention (With Transcript)




The key to relapse prevention is to understand that relapse - happens gradually.
It begins weeks and sometimes months before you pick up the first drink or drug.
That gives you plenty of time to do something.
When you don't understand relapse, you think it happens suddenly.
One minute you’re fine - the next minute you’re using - and you don’t even know how you got there.
Relapse - is a little like a stone rolling down a hill.
It has to build momentum.
The goals of this video are to help you understand the stages of relapse,
recognize the early warning signs,
and learn coping skills - that will help you prevent relapse in the future.

The Stages of Relapse

There are three stages to relapse. They are: Emotional, Mental, and Physical.
Let’s go through them in more detail.

Emotional Relapse

The key to emotional relapse is that you’re not thinking about using.
That’s the furthest thing from your mind.
You remember your last relapse, and you don’t want to go back there.
But everything that you’re doing, all your behaviors, all your emotions, are setting you up for relapse down the road.
Denial is a big part of emotional relapse, because you’re not thinking about using at this stage.
That’s why it’s so important that you learn the early warning signs of relapse, so that you can see if you are slipping.

Signs of emotional relapse

Here are some of the signs of emotional relapse:

  • Isolating
  • Irritability
  • Focusing on others
  • Bottling up emotions
  • Not asking for help
  • Not going to meetings, or not sharing
  • Not taking care of yourself with poor eating and sleeping habits.


What do all these have in common?
Poor self-care.
That is the essence of emotional relapse.
Relapse prevention isn’t complicated.
It’s about the things you learned in kindergarten, that most of us have forgotten.
Get a good night sleep
Eat three meals a day
Ask for help
Share your feelings.
That’s relapse prevention.

If you live in emotional relapse for too long, after a while you will start to feel uncomfortable in your own skin.
And when that happens, you will start to think about using just to escape.
With that, you will suddenly move from emotional relapse to mental relapse.

Mental Relapse

In mental relapse, there's a war going on in your mind.
Part of you wants to use, but part of you doesn't.
Everyone has occasional thoughts of using.
It doesn’t mean you have to relapse.
But it is a warning sign.
In the beginning, your thoughts are brief and easy to handle.
But if you continue to live in mental relapse for too long, the pull of your addiction gets stronger and stronger.

Signs of mental relapse

Here are some of the signs of mental relapse:

  • Thinking about people, places, and things that were part of your using
  • Minimizing consequences of past relapses
  • Seeing old using friends
  • Bargaining
  • Lying. That’s a big one. Lying to others and eventually lying to yourself. [slowly]
  • Finally, you start to look for opportunities, when you could use without getting caught.

Relapse Prevention Strategies

Once you start to think about using, what can you do?
Your addictive brain is telling you to use
It’s telling you that this time will be different
But it has been wrong before

Think it through

One drink or one drug use is usually never enough
Think of what you could lose if you relapse
Think of the hopelessness and despair that you’ve felt before

Change your scenery

Go for a walk
Don’t give your cravings room to grow
Tell yourself that you’ll wait for 30 minutes
You’ll discover that most cravings
don’t last very long

Talk About Your Feelings

Tell Someone How You Feel
Tell someone that you're thinking about using
Go to a meeting
Everyone there has had those thoughts before
They will understand
When you talk about your cravings they’re easier to handle

Challenge your thinking

When you start to think about using
Think your relapse through
Distract yourself
Talk about your feelings
Do your recovery one day at a time

Physical Relapse

Once you start to think about using,
if you don’t take care of yourself,
if you don’t ask for help,
if you don’t talk about your cravings,
your thoughts will get stronger and louder,
until eventually you addiction is screaming inside your head.
You can go from mental relapse to physical relapse in the blink of an eye.
It can happen so fast, you won’t even know how you got there.

The Key Point

Here is the main point.
When you don’t understand relapse, you think that relapse prevention means saying no just before you pick up a drink or drug.
But that’s focusing on the final stage – the most difficult stage.
That’s why you relapse!
Relapse prevention involves focusing on the early stages when it’s still easy to do something


Here is a Summary of Relapse Prevention
Relapse - happens gradually
Look for the early warning signs
Practice self-care
Ask for help
And always remember, you are not alone

Last Modified:May 31, 2021