What does relapse mean? What does enable mean? There are many terms within the addiction and recovery world that still go largely unknown. However, due to the ongoing drug epidemic within the U.S., it is important to be aware of the meanings of these terms, especially if you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction. In this blog, we will discuss the meaning of relapse and enabling, how they happen, and what you can do to prevent drawbacks to addiction recovery.
What Does Relapse Mean?
A relapse is an episode in which a patient’s health improves only to worsen later on. In addiction treatment, relapse refers to a return to substance use after a period of sobriety. Even if it lasts weeks, months, or years, relapse is a common occurrence in drug addiction recovery and is a natural part of the process. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40% and 60% of addicts relapse within the first year of treatment. However, relapse is especially dangerous to someone who has recently quit substance use, because it can easily lead to an overdose.
Stages of Relapse
Relapsing is a gradual process that typically occurs in three phases. By becoming aware of these phases as you experience them, you can employ strategies to help minimize your chance of using drugs or alcohol again. The stages include the following:
Stage 1 – Emotional Relapse
Even though you currently don’t feel like using, you may remember your last relapse. As a result, you believe that you are motivated to stay sober. During this phase, you will experience certain emotions that may lead you to use drugs again. Signs of emotional relapse include:
- Hiding emotions
- Poor sleeping or eating habits
- Not utilizing recovery tools
- Focusing on problems
When you bottle up your emotions and withdraw from others, negative feelings build up, causing you to feel more lonely. At this stage, using drugs or alcohol again may be attractive. Connecting with others and expressing your feelings to family, friends, or a therapist if you find yourself here is highly recommended at this stage.
Stage 2 – Mental Relapse
You are probably having a battle with yourself during this stage. One part of you wishes to use again, while the other part does not. Here are some signs of mental relapse:
- Intense cravings
- Minimizing consequences of addiction
- Thinking about things associated with past use
- Searching for opportunities to relapse
It is vital to steer clear of riskier situations, including bars or parties, while in this phase of relapse. Because you are conflicted in regards to using, you are prone to temptation. You should recognize that cravings and thoughts of using are part of the recovery process. You do not need to have failed or started using again simply because you had thoughts. Furthermore, you can learn in therapy how to manage your unhelpful thoughts and release them.
Stage 3 – Physical Relapse
When a person returns to drug or alcohol use, this is the last phase. Most physical relapses occur because you are confronted with an opportunity to consume. Relapse prevention is a feature of therapy that enables you to plan for such situations.
Signs of Relapse
There are specific warning signs for each stage of relapse, but there are general warning signs as well. These can help you identify individuals who are struggling more effectively. These warning signs include:
- False sense of control
- Glamorizing past use
- Sudden change in behavior
- Mood swings
- Visiting places or people associated with past use
- Failure to go to support meetings
- Loss of faith in the recovery process
What Causes Relapse?
People typically relapse as a result of an internal or external trigger. An internal or external trigger can be either a positive or a negative trigger, which sets off a chain of associations that leads to an addictive desire. Common triggers include:
- Uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms
- Feeling isolated
- Seeing people or places associated with past use
- Grief of losing a loved one
- Loss of employment
How to Prevent Relapse?
According to experts, the greatest way to keep clean is to engage in all the rewarding recovery activities—seeking the advice of others, contemplating triggers of craving to use drugs, learning to endure discomfort, following a program of self-care, developing new interests, finding new sources of life significance, participate in aftercare or support groups, and constructing a relapse prevention strategy.
Learning to recognize high-risk situations and create very specific strategies to deal with each one is equally vital. Situational cues and internal experiences—both positive memories of using or negative thoughts about resisting impulses—are among the highest-risk situations. It is sometimes best to walk away from a tough scenario or to call on one’s support network, for example, but cognitive strategies are also crucial to recovery, such as removing oneself from one’s thoughts until the need to use has passed.
What Does Enable Mean?
Enabling is when a person contributes to another person’s self-destructive or compulsive behavior. When a person with addiction struggles, an enabler may inadvertently promote or permit their continued substance abuse, rather than aiding them. Often, we refuse to allow an individual with a substance use disorder to stay in our house if he or she uses alcohol or drugs. An enabler, however, may purchase their drug of choice for them, use it with them, or make excuses for their addictive behaviors.
It is common for addicts’ family members to engage in enabling activities. You may be providing monetary assistance or taking on more than your fair share of responsibilities for them, for example. Unless you intervene, people might unintentionally engage in these behaviors, particularly if they feel guilty, scared, or hopeful that their loved one will eventually get better as long as they are helped. However, you can help your loved ones recover from drugs and alcohol by identifying enabling behaviors.
Signs That You’re an Enabler
It can be extremely difficult to recognize the difference between helping and enabling someone if you care for someone who is struggling with addiction and mental health problems. The following are common signs of enabling:
You Make Excuses
It’s all too simple to excuse an addict’s behaviors when you’re close to them. For instance, if you know that someone has had a tough day at work, you may not comment when they go to the bar to order a drink or two, or three. You tell yourself that they’ve had a difficult day, so it’s fine if they drink too much or take drugs, right?
Individuals with substance use disorders always find reasons or excuses to use drugs or alcohol, and this is a clear indication of enabling addiction. By showing them that turning to drugs or alcohol is acceptable when it is “justified,” you are enabling addiction. You cannot control their behavior, but making excuses for them only perpetuates the problem.
You Shield Them from Consequences
No one wants to see their family or friends in trouble or get sick. However, addiction can lead to serious problems if the person puts themselves or others in danger. If you have bailed out a family member or friend from drug charges, driving while intoxicated, or other illegal activities, their addiction will convince them that nothing terrible will happen if they drink or use drugs again.
Many addicts refer to the moment before seeking treatment as ‘hitting rock bottom.’ Yet, how will they ever reach rock bottom if you continue to rescue them? Of course, this does not mean that you should leave them in a hazardous place. Instead, you can turn to outside resources, such as alerting the police or mental health professionals if you feel that they are in danger.
You Give Them Money
Addiction is costly, and people with mental health issues and substance use disorders might ask for money to help them out in difficult times. Addiction frequently prevents a person from holding down a job, resulting in unemployment and difficulty purchasing drugs or alcohol. If you notice that your loved one is continually asking for money, you might be enabling (and even funding) their addiction by giving it to them.
You Don’t Set Boundaries
Have you ever been hesitant to express yourself to your loved one, because you didn’t want to make their symptoms (or behavior) worse? Or do you forgive the person for hurting you? This can result in a toxic relationship that damages you. Remember, mental illness may explain the person’s behavior, but it does not excuse it.
You Prioritize Their Needs
An enabler frequently prioritizes an addict’s needs over their own in an attempt to demonstrate their love and connection to the addict as they grow more distant. Many enablers believe that the addict’s needs must be met in order to keep them close and relatively safe.
As the disease progresses, enablers believe that they are the only ones who can help substance abusers, and as a result, they isolate themselves even more so than the substance abuser they love. Because the enabler has become the addict’s primary caregiver, their wellbeing is now intrinsically linked to the addict’s wellbeing, especially for addicts’ spouses, parents, and children.
How to Stop Enabling
Supporting someone you care about is a difficult habit to break. You’ll have to redefine what supporting your loved one actually means, and that may require doing things that make them angry. You’ll have to remember that, once they’re sober, they’ll appreciate your true compassion for them, even if they are furious with you right now.
You cannot make excuses for the addicted individual in your life, no matter how much you want to. You must face reality rather than make excuses. They are not sick; they are hungover. When they failed to pay their bills, they used the money to buy drugs or alcohol rather than forgetting to pay the bill. Refusing to acknowledge a difficulty does not make it disappear. You must accept, understand, and acknowledge there is a problem, and then you can assist your loved one in getting the help they desperately need.
Likewise, when you bail your loved one out of jail or rush out in the middle of the night to get them out of a predicament, you are enabling their behavior to continue. This type of enabling teaches them that there are no consequences for their actions. This distorted and unbalanced perspective can fuel their impulsive behavior even more, which may make them even more reckless and careless.
Lastly, giving money to an addict does not help them stop using substances. It helps it continue. Lending money to someone with an addiction subverts discipline, downplays the importance of diligent work and structure, and makes it simpler for them to keep using substances. You must refuse to lend or give money to a loved one with an addiction, no matter how challenging it is for you. Cut them off, and push them toward rehabilitation with love.
Can Enabling Cause Relapse?
Recovering from a substance abuse issue can be challenging in a family or relationship. The majority of the time, family members aren’t aware that they are unintentionally encouraging addiction-related behavior; however, enabling an addiction can result in serious consequences such as relapse if a continuous pattern is established.
In contrast, while enablers may try to micromanage a recovering addict’s life in an attempt to prevent a relapse, this controlling behavior might actually push them back into substance abuse. A support system is beneficial after rehab, but sufficient autonomy is also necessary to succeed at transitioning into a new, sober lifestyle. Identifying enabling behavior on your part may be difficult, but it may prevent you from driving a recovering loved one away or back to substance abuse.
Louisville Recovery Center is Here to Help
If you have found yourself asking what does relapse mean? or what does enable mean? We are here to assist. If you or a loved one is currently struggling with addiction, you can trust the experts at Louisville Recovery Center.
Anyone in Louisville, Kentucky can become addicted to drugs or alcohol, but just as anyone can become addicted, anyone can recover—with our help. The professionals at Louisville Recovery Center will assist you in creating an addiction treatment program that meets your unique wants and needs. With our customized services and programs, we can assist you in overcoming addiction. Please contact us today to learn more about our services and treatments. We are in this together.