Relapse Triggers And Warning Signs
Sobriety is a lifelong journey, and relapse is a painfully common setback on the road to recovery. This is nothing for an addict to feel shame over, however, because anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of those in recovery experience at least one episode before they are able to achieve long-term sobriety.
This type of backsliding doesn’t suddenly just happen. It’s a process that plays out over days or even weeks, and it generally happens in stages. Fortunately, whether you are struggling with addiction or know someone who is, there are warning signs to look for.
Staying vigilant about recognizing these behaviors can help recovering addicts or their loved ones catch this in its earliest stages and hopefully prevent a full episode. If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, reach out for help as soon as possible.
1. Noticeable Changes in Behavior
Often, one of the first warning signs is a marked change in day-to-day behaviors. Things like sleep schedules, personal hygiene and daily routines may suddenly seem to become less important, despite the fact that they are all integral parts of a sobriety program.
In addition to changes in routine, there are usually changes in emotional behaviors as well. Where a person was once open to examining his or her actions, he or she might become brusque or defensive. Social situations may begin to feel uncomfortable, and the person might begin to noticeably withdraw from relationships.
2. Sudden, Irresponsible Actions
Another red flag is a loss of judgment. Instead of practicing mindfulness and making rational choices, a person may begin acting impulsively or making choices that are obviously bad or unhealthy.
Someone in danger of using again may also start to deny that continued drug rehab treatment is necessary, and he or she may stop attending group meetings regularly. People in this situation might start placing themselves in risky situations, such as going to a club or bar, because they believe that they are “in control.”
3. Dealing With High-stress Events
Very few things can trigger an urge to use like stress. Dealing with stress is an unavoidable part of life, but it can be particularly difficult for those fighting for sobriety.
Strong, negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger or frustration automatically elevate stress levels. If recovering addicts don’t tightly manage their stress, it can be easy for it to get out of hand. Stressful life events such as breakups, loss of a loved one, health problems or financial changes are all serious triggers.
4. Reminiscing About the Past
Often, someone who is on the verge of using again will begin to romanticize “the old days” of his or her substance abuse. Sometimes, it can be reconnecting with friends and acquaintances from the past. Other times, something can trigger a memory of using. This can easily lead to glamorizing those days and reliving whitewashed memories of the “fun” or “interesting” person an addict remembers being while using.
Allowing these types of thoughts to run unchecked is a dangerous step backwards in recovery. A major part of the detox process is acknowledging all of the negative consequences and alienation that came along with substance abuse, so deviating from that or thinking that any part of those days was glamorous or exciting is a serious warning sign.
5. Loss of Structure
Most drug rehab programs feature an extremely regimented structure that those in recovery are expected to follow. Establishing good habits and repeatable routines is an important step in helping recovering addicts regain control of their lives, and this is something that rehab instills in everyone early on.
If you’re a recovering addict, you should pay attention to the times that your routines start to fall apart. Maybe you sleep through your alarm or feel like it’s okay to skip work or school. Maybe you decide that your self-care practices are less important than they once were.
If someone you love is a recovering addict, try to be mindful of his or her daily routines. Major deviations in schedule or behavior are often red flags that they are backsliding and need help. Sudden attitude shifts are another warning sign. Noticeable mood swings, such as bouts of serious depression and self-pity or brash overconfidence, can both signal trouble.
Prevention is Possible With Early Detection
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 60 percent of individuals who are recovering from drug addiction experience at least one relapse in their recovery journeys. It can be easy to think that once an addict has gone through detox and completed a sobriety program that the worst is over. However, addiction is a daily struggle, and it should not be taken lightly.
The best way for those in recovery to succeed is to understand the battle they’re fighting and arm themselves with the knowledge of when it’s time to ask for help and support.