There’s a reason why people who are in recovery from addiction say they take life one day at a time. That’s because addiction never really goes away—every day poses the possibility of relapse, which requires a commitment to sobriety to avoid falling back into the trap of using drugs or alcohol again.
Relapse can be sneaky, however. It doesn’t start with taking a drink or drugs. Rather, that’s the culmination of the relapse process. The wheels are set in motion much earlier, which is why it’s important to know the signs and stages of relapse in order to try and prevent it from happening.
Stages of Relapse
Relapse starts inside of a person, beginning with their emotional state of being. If someone is dealing with depression, anxiety or sadness, that can color the person’s outlook. Negative emotions can be poisonous, deeply affecting a person’s mental health. It can be an ongoing battle wrestling with negative thoughts, and it may lead someone to start to feel negative about recovery as well.
This demoralization can weaken someone’s resolve to stay sober. That can lead to questioning the value of sobriety or whether relapse is really a big deal. If the mental and emotional issues aren’t dealt with, it can lead to physical problems such as loss of appetite or lack of sleep. In this vulnerable emotional, mental, and physical state, it can very easily lead to relapse.
Signs of Relapse
Knowing the signals that can lead to a relapse can help someone get the assistance they need. If you or a loved one is in recovery and you see any of the following warning signs, you will want to follow up and get professional help as soon as possible.
- Depression. Symptoms of depression can include feelings of uselessness, lethargy, anxiety, and a loss of interest in the activities that usually bring joy and satisfaction.
- Skepticism about recovery. If someone starts to talk about how recovery isn’t beneficial, or that sobriety doesn’t mean complete abstention from substances, that’s another red flag.
- Lying or denials. This can be especially worrisome if someone is lying about their daily activities or whether they have been consuming substances.
- Reliving the past. Wearing rose-colored glasses when reminiscing about the days that were consumed by addiction can be dangerous. The person may talk about the “good old days,” forgetting about the ruined relationships and health problems stemming from substance abuse. This could lead to a more open attitude about using again, especially if the person has the misguided belief that it won’t have a negative impact on their health. Revisiting the past can also mean someone is hooking up again with people who encouraged their substance abuse.
- Changes in mood and behavior. A cheerful person suddenly grows more irritable. Someone who kept a strict schedule drops out of their regular activities without a good reason. These are signs that the person could be going through emotional and mental shifts that could lead to a relapse.
- Spending more time alone. Negative thoughts or a mental health issue such as depression can lead someone to isolate themselves and keep away from the people who could help, such as family or support group members.
- Inability to deal with stress. Major life changes—divorce, death in the family, job change or loss of financial security—can be a trigger for relapse, especially if the person’s usual coping technique to handle stress doesn’t seem to be working.
- Boredom or exhaustion. It can be so depleting to have to struggle emotionally and mentally with the thought of relapse, and that can lead someone to feel tired or a sense of inertia. Substances could then be used to fill that gap.
Steps to Take to Avoid Relapse
Preventing relapse is crucial in recovery. If you identify a warning sign, it’s vital to get help as soon as possible so you don’t fall prey to your addiction. That could mean talking with a trusted friend or family member, setting up an appointment with your therapist or attending more 12-step or support group meetings. Doing this will remind you of the importance of using the coping tools you learned during your rehabilitation treatment. It’s also beneficial to maintain healthy habits, such as exercising and eating well, that will strengthen you in all aspects of your life. Finally, employ relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing that can help prevent stress-related triggers from causing a relapse. If you relapse or think it will be imminent, then you should enter a treatment program immediately.
Casa Palmera offers exceptional addiction rehabilitation programs that will give you foundational tools for recovery and provide the support you need as you pursue sobriety. Our staff members are experienced in helping clients in all areas of recovery, including those who are dealing with a relapse. For more information, visit our website today.