Eva Carlston Academy
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Talking About It: Relapse

Relapse is a scary word that often stirs up many emotions: hurt, disappointment, guilt, shame, and the list is likely to go on. This happens for both parents and their daughters. 

Relapse and Recovery

Throughout your daughter’s journey here at Eva Carlston Academy, she is likely to experience many relapses. This is part of the process of change and recovery. While relapses can sometimes be detrimental, they are moments of vulnerability, growth, and valuable lessons. 

There were originally five stages of recovery: “Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance.” Each stage holds challenges and lessons within the recovery process. 

  • Pre-Contemplation is when we deny and/or do not recognize a problem is creating dysfunction in our lives.
  • Contemplation is when we begin to recognize we have a problem. However, we do not know what to do with the problem so we continue with the dysfunctional behaviors.
  • Preparation is when we begin to prepare to make a change in our life by looking for support groups, therapists, resources, help, etc. 
  • Action is when we are actively making changes and implementing the skills we have learned and/or are currently learning.
  • Maintenance is when we have made a change and are maintaining the change in our life.

Relapse is the sixth stage of recovery that often is not addressed until the relapse occurs. 

Relapses are not failures. This means that they are not always self-sabotage, about parents, therapists, or friends. At times, it can be challenging and difficult to feel comfortable applying new skills. As we learn new skills to manage depression, substance use, anxiety, or trauma, we often find comfort in our old ways of coping. More often than not relapse is about fatigue, just like learning any new skill. 

Relapse Prevention Plans

When your daughter does experience a relapse there a few key reminders:

  1. Relapses are not a happy experience for your daughter. They are already experiencing guilt and shame. Often guilt can make the relapse worse and/or lead to more dishonesty about the relapse.
  2. The fear of relapse can be a primary stressor that often results in relapse.
  3. Relapses are a step in the recovery process.
  4. Your daughter needs to have support from people who they can tell they have relapsed and who will give them a hand instead of judgment. 

Here at Eva Carlston Academy, your daughter will address relapses and put together a recovery plan that they will be encouraged to use past relapses to identify triggers, warning signs, and healthy coping strategies or skills to manage relapses in the future.

Recovery is not linear, that is why it is important to remember the concept of “I will never be able to plan for every trigger or cause for relapse. I can plan every recovery from any relapse.”

Many feelings will be going through your daughter’s mind during relapse, and this is why a proper relapse prevention plan is essential to recovery. Developing an effective relapse prevention plan can help future relapses. It often involves small, achievable goals that motivate the individual. 

After relapse, it’s important to go back to the sobriety basics. Even if the individual has relapsed for years, or just a couple months. Restructuring the basics of sobriety is an important first step in the recovery process. 

Although relapse is a scary word, the more knowledge and understanding you have on the topic can help better equip you and your daughter in effectively handling the relapse and get her back on the path to recovery.