Early Signs You’re Heading Toward a Relapse (And How to Stop It)

relapse-warning-signs

Many people mistakenly believe that going through alcohol detox or drug detox is the hardest part of recovering from an addiction. But in reality, that’s not often the case for the average addict.

Studies have shown that anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of people recovering from an addiction relapse at least one time. Therefore, staying on the straight and narrow and avoiding relapse at all costs is the toughest part of the recovery process.

This is a lifelong battle for people. They have to look out for relapse warning signs that let them know trouble might be ahead. They also have to continue to fight off the urge to return to their addiction whenever it rears its ugly head.

Take a look at 12 relapse warning signs below and learn how to stop relapse from affecting your recovery.

1. Struggling With Physical and Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

There is a reason why it’s so essential for people to go through the rehab process when they first decide to get help with an addiction. It allows them to deal with their physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms.

When detoxing from years of alcohol or drug abuse, it’s not uncommon for people to go through a series of strong physical withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, these symptoms could be life-threatening if they’re not dealt with in the right way.

Learn about what the detox process is like before going through it. It’ll help you to work your way through alcohol or drug detox and put many of your physical withdrawal symptoms to rest.

But don’t forget to spend time focusing on the emotional withdrawal symptoms, too. People who are detoxing from alcohol or drugs will often feel:

  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Guilty
  • Shameful
  • Hopeless
  • Worthless
  • Irritable
  • Disinterested

It’s just as important to work through these emotions as it is to work through the physical symptoms of alcohol or drug withdrawal. If you don’t do it, the feelings could send you running right back to alcohol or drugs later.

2. Skipping Individualized Treatment Sessions or Support Group Meetings

You might think that you’re ready to get out there and conquer the world as soon as the physical and emotional symptoms of alcohol or drug withdrawal are gone. But this couldn’t be further from the truth!

As we mentioned earlier, recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a lifelong process. It’s something you’ll need to work on one day at a time from now on.

The most effective way to do it is by taking part in a recovery management program. This type of program will connect you with a peer recovery support specialist who can prevent relapse warning signs from presenting themselves.

Another way to take back control of your life is by joining a support group that caters to those with your specific type of addiction. You’ll be able to share your thoughts and feelings with others and hear what others have to say about battling addiction.

A support group can surround you with people who are going through the same battle as you are. It’ll make a massive difference in how you approach life moving forward.

3. Falling Out of a Post-Rehab Routine

In addition to attending individualized treatment sessions and/or support group meetings following a rehab stint, it’s also essential for you to set up a post-rehab routine for yourself. This routine should include things like:

  • Waking up in the morning and going to bed at night at reasonable times
  • Eating three meals every day featuring the right kinds of foods
  • Going to school or finding a job
  • Working out on a regular basis
  • Finding fun hobbies to fill any free time you have

If you, at any point, feel yourself deviating from your normal post-rehab routine, it could be a sign that you’re on the verge of slipping back into old patterns. Try to stick to the schedule that you’ve set up so you’re not tempted to go back to your old ways.

4. Romanticizing Past Alcohol or Drug Use

There is nothing romantic about dealing with alcohol or drug addiction. Addiction can push your body and mind to the brink and cause you to do things that you wouldn’t do otherwise.

Yet, it’s surprising how many people begin to glamorize their dark past when it comes to alcohol and drug abuse. Even though they know, deep down, that drinking or using drugs destroyed their lives, they romanticize doing it when they’re far removed from it.

This can send you running back in the wrong direction if you’re not careful. It’s important to remind yourself early and often about why you don’t want to use alcohol or drugs anymore.

Taking this approach can stop you from looking back on alcohol or drug abuse with fond memories.

5. Doubting the Rehab and Recovery Processes

The rehab and recovery processes don’t take place overnight. It takes a lot of people months, if not years, to see all the positive results that come about when they stop using drugs or alcohol for good.

Because of this, many people start to doubt the rehab and recovery processes while they’re in the midst of going through them. They question why their lives aren’t dramatically better—and wonder why they even bothered giving up alcohol or drugs in the first place.

Do you find yourself questioning rehab and recovery? This is one of the relapse warning signs that can be tough to shake. It’s hard to hold out hope for a better life when things don’t seem to be going your way despite your best efforts.

These are the times when talking to a support specialist or a support group can help you. You’ll have a much easier time seeing the light at the other end of the tunnel.

6. Hanging Out With Old Friends

When you commit to quitting alcohol or drugs forever, you also have to commit to creating some separation between yourself and some of your closest friends and acquaintances. It’s almost impossible to stop drinking or using drugs when you’re still close with people who are using alcohol and drugs.

If you find yourself running in the same circles as before you checked yourself into rehab, it’s time to look around you and make some hard decisions. You need to cut off any friends who could use peer pressure to get you to return to using alcohol or drugs.

You may be able to reconnect with them at some point in the future if they’re able to get clean and start a new life for themselves. But even then, it’s not always possible for two people who used to use alcohol or drugs together to remain close. It can compromise their sobriety and serve as one of the relapse warning signs.

7. Obsessing Over the Idea of Using Alcohol or Drugs Again

Do you find that you spend a lot of your time thinking about using alcohol or drugs right now? Even if you’re not physically using either of them, you could be putting yourself into harm’s way by allowing them to consume so much of your life.

When you obsess over using alcohol or drugs, you increase your chances of doing it. It’s important to talk to someone—a counselor, a support group, or a sponsor—about this. They can help you talk your way through things and figure out why alcohol or drugs are setting up shop in your mind.

8. Rationalizing “Just One Drink” or “Just One Hit”

As you move further and further away from alcohol or drugs, it becomes easier and easier to convince yourself that you could have “just one drink” of alcohol or “just one hit” of a drug without using them full-time again.

But, is that possible? The answer, of course, is no. But because of the way your brain is wired, you might be able to convince yourself that a small amount of alcohol or drugs is OK.

This is yet another one of the relapse warning signs that will require you to get some professional help. You need to talk to someone who can remind you as to why you shouldn’t entertain the thought of using alcohol or drugs under any circumstances.

9. Getting Very Defensive With Others

Do you find yourself getting defensive with other people when they question whether or not you might be using alcohol or drugs again?

Whether you’re using them or not, you shouldn’t feel like you’re on the defensive all the time. If you do, it’s a sign of trouble. And hopefully, your family and friends won’t ignore it.

10. Failing to Practice the Proper Self-Care

People who are addicted to alcohol or drugs don’t take great care of themselves. They don’t eat enough, bathe on a regular basis, or care about the way that they look to the world.

Have you found that you’re not putting your best foot forward day in and day out? It could be one of the relapse warning signs. You’re not practicing the proper self-care and doing what’s best for your body and mind.

You can make self-care more of a priority in your life by:

  • Taking in the right nutrients each day through the meals that you eat
  • Making exercise a more significant part of your life
  • Getting enough sleep at night
  • Socializing with family members, friends, and other people who are important to you
  • Stepping away from technology every now and then
  • Embracing nature and all that it has to offer
  • Learning how to process and deal with difficult emotions
  • Being open to the idea of asking for help when you need it

If you start to notice that these things aren’t as important as they should be to you, take it as a sign that a relapse could be on the horizon. You should get back to practicing good self-care to reduce the chances of a relapse taking place.

11. Lying to Others About Recovery

The recovery process isn’t all sunshine and flowers. And it isn’t supposed to be!

There will be times when you feel like giving up and going back to using alcohol or drugs. It’s only natural for you to feel that way.

Rather than lying to others about how recovery is going, try your best to be honest with them.

You might think that admitting that you feel weak and powerless makes you look bad. But in actuality, it makes you look human. Anyone in your same position would be struggling with the same battle that you are right now.

When you’re open and honest with others about your struggles, you’ll feel better about your fight. You’ll realize how important it is for you to continue to work as hard as you can to remain in the recovery process.

12. Denying That an Alcohol or Drug Problem Still Exists

It doesn’t matter if the last time you used alcohol or drugs was a day ago, a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, or a decade ago. Your alcohol or drug problem is not going anywhere. It’s something you’ll live with for life.

The sooner you’re able to accept that and come to terms with it, the sooner you’ll be able to make a real recovery from addiction. But if you deny that a problem exists at any point, it’ll make it harder for you to recover and move on with your life.

By getting professional help with your problem early on, you can learn to make peace with it. You can also learn more about the relapse warning signs and how to avoid them.

Spot Relapse Warning Signs Early and Do Something About Them

No matter how long you’re able to stay sober, there is always a chance that relapse could be a problem you’ll have to face.

Keep a close eye out for the relapse warning signs that you learned about today and take action if you spot any of them. When you spot a sign early, you’ll be able to do something about it instead of slipping back into old habits.

Contact us today to get the help you need to recover from an alcohol or drug addiction.

 

References:

1. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/adult-addiction-treatment-programs/signs-of-relapse

2. https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/relapse-prevention.htm

3. https://www.pbinstitute.com/blog/13-signs-relapse/

4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5047716/

6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-exercise-help-conquer-addiction-2018122615641

7. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201812/self-care-12-ways-take-better-care-yourself

Article Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.