It is important for addiction sufferers to understand that recovery is a lifelong process. Patients can think of recovery as a journey forward, as opposed to relapse where one retraces their steps back into addiction. Patients respond to treatment for substance addiction in a range of ways – some will stay sober for life, some will relapse entirely, and others will spend their life ping ponging between relapse and recovery.
Graduates of addiction worker training recognize the signs of a relapse and can intervene with specific techniques to help steer the patient away from such a dangerous path. Typical signs of a relapse will mirror initial signs of addiction – including avoiding family, socializing with old friends who abuse addictive substances, anxiety and obsessive behaviour. Here are some other tips students in a mental health worker program or addiction counselling training can use to help prevent or respond to a relapse.
Understanding the Three Stages of Relapse
Like recovery, relapse does not happen all at once. There are three stages of relapse: emotional, mental and physical. In the emotional stage, a patient might exhibit signs of poor self-care and negligence. This may include missing support group meetings, mood swings, and an inconsistent eating and sleeping schedule.
The mental stage is characterized by the patient glamourizing their past drug use. The patient may seriously consider using again and is tempted by their thoughts or fantasies about substance use.
If the mental stage goes unaddressed for too long, a patient is at high risk of moving on to the physical stage of relapse. This could mean going to a bar, driving to the liquor store, or calling a dealer. At this point, relapse has settled in and there is very little chance of preventing the addiction sufferer from abusing.
To avoid progression to the dangerous mental stage of relapse, the addictions worker should encourage the patient to re-focus their thoughts and energy on self-care. This self-care must be supported by friends and family to be effective. If an addiction sufferer feels emotionally worn out with nobody they can turn to, they are more likely to sink deeper into dark thoughts. If a patient seems to be eating poorly, or not getting enough sleep, the addictions worker can ask a family member to step in and offer special support. Professionals in this field learn to recognize the signs of weariness, depression, and malnutrition right away, so they can plan and implement the most effective interventions.
All addiction workers will reassure their patient that recovery is not a solo act. Being alone and without a support system can foster a sense of hopelessness – which makes addicts much more likely to slip back into old habits. Support groups made up of former addicts, addiction workers and maybe even assistants from nursing courses, are a great way to maintain a sober morale. A support group can help patients recognize and manage mental or emotional symptoms of relapse, and prevent these symptoms from progressing further.
Create a Schedule and Healthy Routine
Some patients find returning to their life before addiction to be a difficult transition, which is why creating a daily/weekly schedule can be incredibly helpful to prevent them from veering off track. With the help of an addictions worker, recovering patients can schedule support group meetings and treatment appointments, book time to see friends and family, and plan their daily duties. Schedules can help promote a sense of purpose in an addiction sufferer’s life, helping to relieve the feeling of being “adrift” which can lead down the road to relapse.
Are you considering pursuing a career as an addictions worker? What draws you toward this challenging and rewarding profession