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The Science Behind Relapsing

I recently stumbled across an excellent website filled with research regarding the stages we end up going through before we relapse and begin using drugs again. Relapse is a complex phenomenon, it is one that many addicts fear because it often means the re-engagement of using a substance which dramatically alters the life of the addict and in doing so – the alterations are usually extremely negative for that person’s lifestyle. This post will not go into detail regarding the steps to relapse but will list these steps and discuss relapse in general. If you want to review the steps of relapse further, simply Google “Hamrah Relapse” and you should find a link titled “Steps of Relapse – Stages of Relapse”.

According to Hamrah, they list 11 individual steps within the process of relapsing. These steps are listed below for you to view to get a better understanding of the process that an addict may go through when they eventually relapse and begin using drugs again.

Step 1: Unhealthy emotions

Step 2: Denial

Step 3: Compulsive behaviors

Step 4: Triggers

Step 5: Interior chaos

Step 6: Exterior turmoil

Step 7: Loss of control

Step 8: Addictive thinking

Step 9: High-risk situations

Step 10: RELAPSE

Step 11: Aftermath of relapse

No doubt many of the steps and words above may be familiar to you in your own recovery process. Emotions, denial, triggers, and others are common words mentioned in addiction and recovery in general.

One of the single most important factors in my own experience regarding relapse is to not let an initial relapse destabilize and/or derail all of the hard-work and progress you have already made in your recovery. We see this often with individuals following diets, for example: they decide to eat something that is not part of their diet plan, and instead of accepting it, and returning back to their nutrition plan, they decide that their diet is ruined, and they proceed to spend the next few weeks or however long eating poorly. This can be a devastating situation, especially when we contrast this type of behavior with substance abuse. By letting a one-off relapse-indiscretion turn into the return of full-time drug use we give up on our recovery, our second chance at life. The importance of recognizing the mistake and re-committing one’s self toward their recovery after a one-off relapse is invaluable. Mistakes happen, we are not perfect human beings, and we need to recognize that ‘getting back on the horse’ so-to-speak when we fall off and relapse is critical to achieving a clean and persistent recovery lifestyle.

Consider this if you have landed at the relapse stage and are in the midst of not knowing what road you should take. Get back on the horse, and ride again.


  1. http://hamrah.co/en/pages/steps-of-relapse/

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