A common misconception about addiction recovery is that once a person gets clean, they’re fully recovered. But it would be far more accurate to think of sobriety as a journey rather than a destination. And as we embark upon this journey, we encounter many obstacles along the way. One of these is these is relapse. Sometimes we can see it coming, other times, not so much. But being able to recognize the warning signs of relapse can make all the difference in achieving long-term sobriety.
Naturally, most addiction treatment programs will help addicts understand the triggers that could lead to a relapse. In general, a trigger can be anything: a person, an event, a place, or unresolved psychiatric issues such as anxiety and depression. Recovery programs aim to change an addict’s old habits and perspective of life, but triggers usually stand in the way of that goal by bringing up old feelings and igniting the tendency toward compulsive behaviors.
Reconnecting With Friends Who Still Use
A successful path to recovery calls for a change in lifestyle which can extremely difficult. Sometimes, it’s hard not to think about your old friends who still use, and that’s normal. However, meeting such friends puts you in an environment that increases the chances of a relapse. Being friends with someone who still drinks presents a more complicated issue, even if all they drink is non-alcoholic beer. As far as other drugs are concerned, however, involvement with users typically leads down a pretty bad road.
What to do: Reach out to a friend who does not use or call someone from your support team. It’s also important to build new relationships and find activities you can enjoy with sober friends.
Breaking Down Social Relationships
You need a concrete support system to maintain sobriety. Losing focus in maintaining personal connections can be a red flag. If you find yourself spending less time with your loved ones, getting into confrontations with friends and lying frequently, it’s time to get help.
What to do: Talk to the people in your support system. If you are an active member of your 12-step recovery program, meet up with your sponsor. Explain your feelings and be open as they can provide plenty of useful advice.
Changes in Attitude and Behavior
A sudden change in behavior or attitude towards recovery can be a sign that something is wrong. If you’re grappling with isolation, loneliness, or depression, you could be headed for a relapse. Instead of resorting to drugs or alcohol, remind yourself that those are merely temporary escapes that will not provide any long-term solutions.
What to do: Adopt a mindful approach to dealing with emotions such as disappointment, sadness, hurt, rejection, and depression.
Being Extremely Defensive When Confronted About Changes in Behavior and Attitude
You probably realize you’re getting back into your old habits, but the addict in you is on the defensive. An extremely defensive attitude should be a wake-up call for you and those close to you that you’re on the path to self-destruction.
What to do: For former addicts, call your friend or sponsor and discuss your change in attitude. If your loved one is the victim, it’s critical to have open discussions where you can express your concern over their health in a non-confrontational manner.
Thinking You Can Use Again Without Falling Into Addiction
Starting to believe that you can use without getting hooked could be a sign that you’re headed for a relapse. It helps to know that one time is enough to kickstart the downward spiral into addiction.
What to do: Always remind yourself how hard you’ve worked to become sober. Leverage the lessons you’ve learned throughout recovery and tell yourself that you don’t need to use for whatever reason.
Glamorizing Your Past use
If you remember only the good days of your drug use, that’s a definite warning sign. Using drugs has its ups and downs, and it goes without saying that the adverse effects are what drove you to seek sobriety.
What to do: Sit back and remind yourself why you got sober. Drug and alcohol use was fun up until the point where it started to take a toll on your social life, health, professional life, and financial situation. Your addiction probably even led to problems with the law. Why experience these consequences again? There are other ways to be happy that do not pose half as much risk.
If you start feeling that you have limited options or finding ways to make them appear limited, be wary. Such feelings often result in anger, resentment, fear, tension, desperation, and frustration. When these feelings reach their peak, it becomes typical to lose confidence in the ability to manage life, and we sometimes respond by pushing away the very people who could help.
What to do: Find ways to stay motivated. Like most things in life, motivation is finite. Look for additional motivation by meeting new people, reading books, and engaging your support system. It also helps to make a list of activities and hobbies you enjoy, making a plan to use these things to rejuvenate your spirit once in a while.
Losing Belief in Recovery
Suddenly, you lose interest in your recovery program. It was once important, but it isn’t anymore, so you stop working as hard as you used to before.
What to do: Talk to your therapist or doctor and learn about complementary or alternative options that will help you stay sober.
Elevated Stress Levels
If there have been major changes in circumstances or a buildup of little things, you are likely to experience powerful positive and negative emotions. For instance, the excitement of a job promotion or feelings of disappointment from failing an exam may lead to drug use.
What to do:
Recognize when you are in highly stressful situations and seek extra support for your recovery. Inform the people close to you that you are going through a tough time and will need their extra help. It is possible to alleviate your stress in a productive way.
Sudden Withdrawal Symptoms
The sudden appearance of withdrawal symptoms could be an indication that someone is using again. Different drugs have varying symptoms, so it’s important to be familiar with them for easier recognition. However, some withdrawal symptoms may also be a sign of stress, especially when the addict is in denial.
What to do: Approach the person and express your concern over their well-being. Be sure to avoid confrontation and be ready to compassionate. If the person admits to using again, suggest that they seek professional help.
Preventing a Relapse
By knowing some of the warning signs of a relapse, you are more likely to make healthier choices geared towards sobriety. Whenever you see the signs, get help right away. Nonetheless, a slip or a relapse is not the end of everything. It’s never too late for sobriety. But the sooner you jump back on your recovery plan, the better chance you have of staying sober and remaining free from addiction.
And of course, if you do find yourself in the midst of a relapse, please know that you can contact us any time for more information. We are here to help you get your life back on the right track. All you have to do is pick up the phone.