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Relapse Warning Signs And Triggers

The road to recovery from addiction is long and arduous but ultimately worth the effort. Some people might only have to go through a recovery program once or might even manage to kick their addictions on their own. For others, the battle might need to be fought multiple times.

In fact, about 40-60% of those who treat their substance abuse experience at least one relapse. This is why it is important for those in the support network of an individual who is in recovery to be aware of warning signs of drug use and alcoholism and relapse triggers.

Top 10 Warning Signs of Alcoholism and Drug Use

Substance abuse doesn’t simply occur overnight. There is actually a succession of stages that many individuals go through that lead them increasingly deeper into substance abuse.

When it comes to alcoholism, an alcoholic will display some of the following behavioral and physical signs:

  1. Inability to stop drinking
  2. Lying about or downplaying how much they drink
  3. Binge drinking
  4. Exhibiting dangerous behaviors while drinking
  5. Blackouts
  6. Being hyper-focused on alcohol
  7. Withdrawing from friends and family
  8. Poor performances at work and/or school
  9. Heightened alcohol tolerance
  10. Major weight gain/loss

Behavioral & Physical Warning Signs

  • Feeling compelled to frequently use drugs
  • Spending money regularly on drugs, even when they aren’t affordable
  • Participating in risky behaviors, such as driving while under the influence or stealing
  • Inability to stop using drugs
  • Withdrawal symptoms that occur when a person attempts to stop using drugs
  • Performance issues at work and/or school
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Behaving in a secretive manner

What Are Relapse Triggers?

Why do addicts relapse? The answer is complex and varies a bit between each addict. However, it usually has to do with some kind of trigger.

Some of the most common are emotional triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Fear

Additionally, being around people who enable their addictions can result in relapses. Being in locations (such as bars or nightclubs) where substances might exist can also trigger a relapse.

Relapse Prevention Activities

The best thing that anyone can do to help a loved one who is overcoming substance abuse is to be there for them. It is imperative that the recovering addict is able to practice the new coping skills they are learning in therapy.

Relapse prevention activities that are often learned in therapy and that can be practiced while at home, work, school, or out in public can include:

  • Centering: This activity is done while in a seated position and involves the individual closing their eyes and taking long, deep breaths. This allows the person to purge their negative thoughts, clear their minds, then redirect their focus onto more positive and productive things.
  • Functional Analysis: This activity involves the person assessing their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. The goal is to assess these things as they happen and get to the deeply-rooted reason for why the substance abuse occurred.
  • Distraction: When it is difficult to delay cravings, a person can find activities that distract them and focus on those. Sometimes, it can be helpful to do a positive distracting activity (such as taking the dog for a walk) then work on centering.

There is a slew of other prevention activities available that a person can do while working on their recovery journey. The individual can choose whether they need to do these activities alone or if they feel more comfortable having someone they trust there as they do the activities.

Sometimes, those who are recovering from substance abuse need reminders of how to achieve their sobriety goals and the support to get them through the temptations and difficult emotions they face on the road to recovery.


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