Clues you May be Headed for a Relapse

Relapse is a common occurrence after completion of drug and alcohol treatment or rehab, especially during the first weeks and months of recovery. However, relapse doesn’t usually happen on the spur of the moment.

The process is usually gradual and warning signs of impending relapse may be present for weeks or even months before relapse actually occurs. The key to relapse prevention is to pay close attention to those warning signs and to act accordingly.

Relapse is often the result of complacency or overconfidence. Vigilance is critical during recovery; otherwise, it’s possible to backslide and return to addictive behavior before you even realize you’re in the process of relapsing.

Although relapsing is different for every person, there are a number of clues that you may be about to return to your drug of choice. Here are a few common warning signs:

  • You spend time with old friends who still use drugs or alcohol. While it’s normal to miss old friends, you may be using loneliness as an excuse. Examine your motives closely.

  • You are tempted to return to places where you used to engage in addictive behavior. This is definitely dangerous territory that should be avoided.

  • You engage in poor self-care, including poor nutrition and not getting adequate rest. You are more vulnerable to relapse when you are tired and your energy is down.

  • You stop doing the work to remain abstinent. It’s critical to continue with therapy or support groups throughout recovery. If you notice this warning sign, it’s time to step it up and make recovery your number one priority. Don’t hesitate to re-enter treatment if you’re struggling.

  • You feel like you’ve hit a plateau in your recovery or that you’re stuck and not moving forward. People in recovery often tend to ignore signs of progress, which may seem agonizingly slow at times.

  • You lie to friends and family about your whereabouts, or about your substance use. Being honest with yourself and others will help you prevent sinking back into denial.

  • You romanticize the time when you were drunk or high, remembering the good times but conveniently forgetting the pain and agony associated with addiction. If this occurs, stop and think about why you wanted to get sober in the first place. Don’t sugarcoat your addiction and the problems it caused for you and your loved ones.

  • You get defensive when friends or family members express concerns about the warning signs of relapse. It’s best to pay attention if the people in your life are concerned.

  • You have difficulty coping with stress, becoming moody, irritable and easily frustrated. You may take things personally or blow small matters out of proportion. It may help to practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness meditation or strenuous exercise.

  • You engage in cross-addictions or addiction substitutions such as overeating, gambling, shopping or excessive exercise. This is an indication that addiction is continuing problem that should be addressed.

  • You may think you can handle just one drink, or you can get high just once. If you’re honest with yourself, you know that this behavior is likely to lead you back to addiction sooner or later.

If you notice any of the warning signs, or if you find that you just feel a bit “off center,” it’s important to realize you may be in a dangerous place. Talk to a therapist or sober friend about your feelings. Avoid isolation.

If you’re having difficult urges to use, distract yourself by going for a walk, doing a puzzle, watching a movie, reading an inspirational book or visiting a friend. Remember that cravings usually dissipate in 30 minutes or less. Be patient with yourself, but always be honest.

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