Relapse can be apart of recovery, however, it doesn’t have to be. For those who have relapsed and have come back from it, they can recall that their relapse process starts before they actually pick up the drink or the drug, and that something else was really going on emotionally.
No matter how strong your recovery game may be, the triggers and temptations of daily life seem to lurk around every corner. While you may not want to think about it, relapse is common in recovery and it is estimated that 90 percent of recovering addicts relapse within the first year.
The steps to a relapse can be compiled from changes in attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that gradually lead to the final step. If you are working toward long-term sobriety and want to avoid having a relapse along the way, it is important to recognize the following warning signs and take action to keep them from progressing. Researchers Terence T. Gorski and Merlene Miller identified a set of warning signs or steps that typically lead up to a relapse. Over the years, additional research has confirmed that the steps described in the Gorski and Miller study are reliable and valid predictors of alcohol and drug relapses. We’ve put together their list as well as other components that can be warning signs of a relapse.
There are many of us who begin to struggle after we automatically expect that our problems will fade away once we enter sobriety. This is absolutely not true. Just like life, recovery is a journey and there are times when struggles will present itself that we all have to deal with. Reverting back to old ways and maladaptive behaviors can often exacerbate those problems and magnify them to a degree of high stress.
Unrealistic expectations can additionally lead to added stress. After someone has entered and discharged from treatment, the real world can be a bit of a shock. Going back to work, dealing with family strain, and other added stressors can be due to major life changes or little things building up over time. The danger in this is that while stress levels can get high, over-reacting to these situations can lead to a change in thinking of our old coping skills such as using drugs or drinking. Be sure to talk to supports or a professional therapist when stressors get in the way.
Mood Swings Or Scattered Emotions
For a long time we were used to living and functioning in a certain way, however now that has changed. The difficulty in managing these feelings, while managing life can make us experience mood swings run out of patience to deal with these crazy emotions, that at times we feel resorting back to old behaviors can help us to feel normal again.
Loss Of Commitment To Their Recovery Program Or Supports
This is a huge sign of relapse. When we start to become uninterested in our recovery program, whether that be 12-step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, or support structures like family and friends and we don’t think it’s as important as it was, it can lead to problems. Skipping out on these things can lead to other slip-ups such as dishonesty and keeping one from not being accountable. During this time, we can start to rearrange our program and use excuses for not attending meetings such as, “I don’t need to go to this meeting, or “I already went to one this week.” We can also quit going to therapy or counseling and make other excuses such as, “I don’t like my therapist,” or, “I’m wasting my money.” This is a tell-tale sign of relapse.
Change Of Routine
It’s crucial that anyone new in recovery develop a routine or structure for their daily living – routines that can replace destructive behaviors with healthy ones. As important as this is, changing that routine or avoiding certain commitments and situations can be a red flag for relapse. When this happens, denial, and lack of accountability can follow closely behind – leading to an even faster downhill spiral.
Loss Of Judgment
Once we get sober, we begin to see things clearer and in a new perspective. However, when we start to make unhealthy or irrational decisions, we may be at risk for relapse. This can be caused by overwhelming emotions like anger or frustration about an outcome that didn’t turn out in our favor. Once this happens, we can feel out of control and start making decisions that are purely emotional. Be on the lookout for this.
Hanging Out At Bars Or Old Stomping Grounds
We all know the saying, “if you sit in a barber shop long enough, you’re bound to get a haircut,” and the same goes with this. When we hang out with old using buddies or places we used to drink at, and have no real purpose for being there, we’re merely playing with fire. When we do this, the glamorization can set in of, “the good old days,” at most times, our mind forgets about how terrible it was. With that said, if you are at your old stomping ground and do have a reason for being there – make sure to keep your sober supports around.
Becoming Easily Frustrated Or Angry
At times, before a relapse happens, we can become easily frustrated or angered. This irritation can be the result of becoming unwilling to seek help or take a look at the situation at hand. Anger and irritation can also be mere cover-ups for feeling scared, embarrassed or ashamed. Too many emotions going on at one time may very easily blow the circuit of sobriety, and relapse presents that doorway leading to the comfort of addiction. Sometimes it takes more strength and courage to realize that one may be heading back towards relapse, admit that they are in trouble, and ask for help.
Increased Isolation And Dishonesty
Changes like increased isolation and secretive behaviors often precedes a relapse. This can be evidenced by increased isolation and dishonesty about our whereabouts and who we’re with. We may also have ceased the pursuit of our interests and hobbies that have developed in recovery to engage in old manipulative behaviors.
Positive Emotional States
This can be a confusing one for some, however when we start to feel good and have fun, and want to feel even better, we may resort back to our drug of choice to make us feel good – if other factors are at play. This can create a dangerous backslide. Make sure you surround yourself with other sober supports and friends who know the path of recovery you’re on.