It’s often said in recovery circles that “you are the last one to know that you are about to relapse.” It can be very tough to be self aware, and often times we need loved ones and supports to let us know if we are slipping.
If you have ever relapsed, you will understand the pain and the shame that comes with it. Not only did you lose all the recovery time that you worked so hard for, but now your life is spiraling down hill and you are too ashamed and embarrassed to ask for help. If you are in this situation, you need to swallow your pride and ask for help. Picking yourself up after a relapse is possible.
However, it is best to never get to that point. It is easier to stay clean than to get clean. In order to stay clean, we have to look out for one another. Sometimes we get worried our friends are headed towards a relapse, but we don’t know exactly what to look for.
If you need to talk to a professional, call the Sober Nation hotline. We will never judge you. 866-317-7050.
Here are 7 straight forward signs to look for if you think a friend is heading towards relapse…
1 – They Stop Going to Meetings
Not everyone gets their recovery from a 12 step fellowship, but for those that do, this is and always will be the most glaring sign.
Even for those that do attend meetings, not everyone goes to meetings every day. But, some really depend on meetings and fellowship to stay sober.
It should be a concern when anyone admits that they aren’t going to meetings anymore. Some people decide to stop attending meetings and still maintain their sobriety, but it’s still something to be aware of.
Meetings work, fellowship works, and helping another alcoholic is the most proven and reliable method to stay sober. If your friend stops going to meetings, you may want to have a conversation about that.
2 – They Lose Connection with their Support Group
Everyone needs a little help sometimes…
Once people in recovery start to think “they have it all figured out” is when we should start to worry.
Remember that a good support group will respect you enough to tell you when they think you are acting inappropriately. A good support will “call you out on your bullshit.” When people start avoiding their supports, it’s usually because they don’t want to hear what they have to say. Probably because it’s the truth.
If you see a friend or a loved one start drifting away from the people who hold him or her accountable, have a talk with them. Maybe there is a good reason for it, but it’s definitely a warning sign that should be addressed.
3 – Starts Talking about “Having Just One”
Every addict or alcoholic goes through this at some point. I have yet to meet someone in recovery (including myself) that hasn’t wondered if they could go out and have a drink with friends or a glass of wine with dinner. It can play tricks on your mind, and it’s important to tell the truth.
If we could have just one, than we wouldn’t be here.
“Most of us had been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.”
– A.A. Big Book. Chapter 3. Page 30
The obsession is very real. Sometimes we need to confront our loved ones. When you are stuck in this kind of thinking, it can be difficult to see for ourselves. That’s why we need people around us to tell us the truth.
4 – Your Friend Starts Isolating
There is always the possibility that you’re friend or loved one is going through a tough time. Depression can sneak up on people. Dealing with depression is very difficult because it feels hopeless. It may feel as though this depression will last forever, and your mind fills with fears and worries and anxieties.
Isolation is a common coping mechanism when people are feeling depressed. The problem with isolating is that when an addict is alone, they have no one to listen to but themselves. We get stuck in our heads and there is no one to tell us otherwise. At some point a soft creeping voice in our minds may whisper the words “maybe a drink will make me feel better.”
If you notice your loved one isolating, simply ask to have a talk, and ask them what is going on. Your support means more than you know.
5 – Denial – They Say Things Like “It Wasn’t that Bad”
Actually… it was that bad.
It’s common for people with some clean time under their belts to start forgetting just how terrible a life of addiction actually is. We learn so much about ourselves in recovery and we imagine that if we start drinking or using, we can maintain this life.
It is important that we never forget how bad it used to be.
Speaking personally, the anguish of my withdrawals are and always will be a huge motivating factor in my daily reprieve from using. If a friend starts saying things along the lines of “it wasn’t that bad” or “I just had a little problem” do not hesitate to point out all the destruction and all the pain they caused while in active addiction. Don’t hesitate to mention being shipped to rehab or maybe even prison. Your tough love may save their life.
For real addicts and alcoholics, there is no middle group. It’s all or nothing.
6 – Talks About “Just Wanting to be Normal”
This one is also very common. It is difficult to admit the truth. It is difficult to know in our hearts that no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to drink like other people.
This is one of the most common reasons people relapse. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Countless times people we love pick up that first drink hoping they can do it like everyone else. Over and over again we have to watch them spiral down that dreaded path into full blown addiction.
It’s one of the most peculiar things about addiction. We know it hasn’t worked for other people. Very few of us have seen examples of people being able to “start drinking like a normal person,” yet we give it a shot anyway. Then it’s off to the races.
It can be really heartbreaking to watch.
7 – Starts Replacing Addictions
The drugs and the alcohol aren’t necessarily what addiction is about. Addiction is about a person not understanding themselves, not belonging to something and coping with the struggles in their spiritual, mental, emotional and physical lives.
If someone starts acting obsessively, you should take notice.
This might include…
- obsessive exercising
- obsessive eating habits: counting calories, not eating enough, purging or binge eating
- getting overly involved or concerned over a relationship
- cutting or other forms of self mutilation
- working around the clock
- hording belongings
This is important because until the real issues are addressed, it is common for people to replace one addiction with another. Some would say that these other addictions are less harmful. They might argue that “at least their not shooting heroin.”
There may be some truth to that, but understand that the drugs and the drink are always at arms reach. Unless the real issues or addressed, the chances of relapse are always much greater.
It is one thing to have a healthy workout routine, or watch what you eat. It is another to do these things obsessively to where they take precedence over everything else. This is really a judgement call, but if a loved one is at the “borderline” it worth having a conversation.
How To Approach a Friend You Think Will Relapse
Our best advice is to come from a place of love, compassion and understanding. If you are having a talk with a friend about some concerns, it’s best to be honest. You will not be able to manipulate an addict, in fact it may turn against you.
Tell them that you love them, that you have seen them slipping and that you are concerned. Come from a non judgmental viewpoint. Tell them you understand and that you just want to help.
Relapse is heart breaking for the families, friends and the person relapsing. So it’s best to be supportive and remind them how far they have come and that they are doing a great job.
If all else fails, just show them this picture.