A relapse refers to breaking one’s sobriety. However, it is not only the act of picking up a drink or a drug that constitutes a relapse; a relapse occurs well before the act of using drugs and alcohol, sometimes months beforehand. Often times, people in recovery and the addictions field refer this verge of a relapse as “mental relapse” because it has everything to do with the recovering alcoholic/addict’s mental state and associated thoughts and behaviors.
There can be many warning signs of an alcoholic/addict who is on the verge of a relapse but, here are 5 main things to look out for:
1. Feelings and emotions are all over the map
- Irritation or easily angered
- Becoming defensive and no longer able to accept constructive criticism
- Sudden feelings of depression and loneliness
- Beginning to feel extremely stressed out and constantly tense
- Withdrawal symptoms suddenly start to reappear – Known as post-acute withdrawal, symptoms include anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and memory loss and can continue long after they quit drinking or doing drugs. These symptoms can return during times of stress. They are dangerous because they may be tempted to self-medicate them with alcohol or drugs.
2. The staunch belief that they will never drink/use again
The alcoholic/addict proudly feels that they have found the key that will halt their drinking/using forever, and this very cocky nature and ego-driven thinking will almost always be their downfall. This leads to the next warning sign. When the alcoholic/addict takes on this belief, they abandon the idea of “one day at a time” and therefore lose their faith and belief in following a program of recovery.
3. Loss of commitment to their recovery program
- Stop going to meetings, stop calling sponsor and sober friends
- Loss of belief in addiction recovery program
- Believing you are strong enough to use again without falling back into addiction
- Beginning the pattern of denial that was present during the addiction
5. Old behaviors:
- Starting to reconnect with old friends from your addiction days
- Hanging out with drinking/using buddies or visiting old haunts
- Romanticizing or longing for the old days
The good news
Relapse following treatment for alcohol and drug addiction is common and predictable; it is also preventable. By knowing the warning signs that describe a verge of a relapse, you can make healthy choices and take alternative action.
If you are the loved one of an alcoholic/addict, remember that you cannot control whether they decide to enter a clean and sober lifestyle or continue to maintain it. You can certainly state calmly and lovingly that you have noticed a steady change in their demeanor or behavior and that you are concerned that they are on the verge of a relapse, and you are available to talk about it if they wish. Remind them of what’s at stake if they continue down this possible destructive path.
Please keep in mind that you are not the cause or responsible if there is a relapse. The bottom line is that their commitment to live a clean and sober life style rests solely and squarely on their shoulders.
If your loved one is on the verge of relapse or has already relapsed, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.