One of the hardest things that you can experience in your recovery is dealing with the pressures in your home environment that can lead to relapse. 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.
Many people may assume that when relapse occurs it does so spontaneously or without warning. The reality is that like the disease of addiction, relapse is a gradual process, and there are tell-tale signs that can cause those in recovery to backslide into active substance abuse. The following are the 13 most common signs of relapse
You Stop Working Your Program
It can happen in anyone’s recovery.
You leave drug treatment and start working your individual plan of recovery with great enthusiasm. You regularly attend 12-step meetings, you work with your sponsor and you utilize all the available relapse prevention tools in your arsenal. As you start getting caught up in the grind of daily life that enthusiasm can start to wane, and as a result you may start slacking on working your program. When you stops attending regular twelve-step meetings or start missing counseling and therapy sessions, this can be a sign that an unhealthy behavior change is occuring. If you feel that you have your addiction “beat” and don’t need the support, you can be ripe for a relapse
One of the common signs of relapse is that you begin to remembering the good times that you had when you were high or drunk, not keeping in mind the consequences of those “good times.” Those memories can be very vivid, and there are many ways they can be triggered such as walking past a bar, a house or park where you used to use substances or even a random conversation with a friend. The psychological remnants of addiction can remain buried in our conscience, and it is normal to flash back to the past. However, if you are dwelling on your past substance use you could be setting yourself up for a relapse.
Reverting Back to Old Behaviors
If you have accumulated some significant clean time, and you start reverting back to the selfish and moody behaviors that marked your using days, relapse may be imminent. It is often said that the early stages of recovery is self-centered, and that is correct to a certain degree. During your time in treatment, you need to focus solely on you and you must take the time to address the underlying roots of your substance abuse. However, if you continue to think that you are the proverbial center of the universe once you are out of treatment, you may not see that your behavior is a common sign of relapse.
“Just One Drink”
Having some substantial clean and sober time can feel very empowering, and you may feel very confident and happy with your recovery-based lifestyle. However, this empowerment that you feel can be a slippery slope in the fact that since things are going well–maybe too well. A sense of complacency can set in, and you may have thoughts that having a casual drink or toke is acceptable. While it may not happen after the first drink, relapse back into addiction will be sudden and people may find themselves in a worse situation in comparison to when they first started treatment.
Seeking Out Old Friends
When you leave treatment and transition back home to resume your day-to-day life, there will be many that will be amazed at how far you come–and this can include those people that you used to run with in your active addiction. In some ways, you may feel they need to reconnect those with old friends you used to use drugs with as a way to “check in” to see what they are doing. While your friends may be happy to see you, they may also try and tempt you with a drink or a toke “for old times sake.” This can be a recipe for disaster in the fact that old memories can stir up nostalgia to use drugs and/or alcohol.
You Abandon Those Things That Provided You Balance
A solid recovery program emphasizes balance, and you need to fill your daily schedule with those things that strengthen your sobriety and give you a sense of grounding and balance. For those people who are prone to relapse, they often quit doing the things that provided that balance such as journaling, exercising, or engaging in volunteer work. While getting caught in the grind of life inevitably happens, abandoning those passions and past times that provide stability in your life can lead you back into those old and lazy habits, and that can eventually lead to relapse if left unchecked.
Oftentimes if you are slipping in your recovery the people in your support system will be the first to notice and the first to tell you. Having a solid support system is absolutely crucial in the fact they can provide encouragement and support–especially in those times when your enthusiasm for working your programs of recovery is on the wane. If you find yourself backsliding into old behavior, and you start becoming defensive and irritated if other people notice this behavior, it is a common sign of relapse.
Engaging in Compulsive Behaviors
Another one of the commons signs of relapse in recovery is when those in recovery start engaging in other behaviors such as gambling or overeating in order to deal with the stress of everyday life. People who are addicted to drugs and alcohol may without conscious effort transfer their addiction to another behavior. For those who may engage in these maladaptive behaviors, they may attempt to rationalize those certain behaviors as being less dangerous. No matter what the behavior, they can lead you back into active substance use.
There are many who struggle in recovery expect all of their problems to fade once recovery “kicks in.” In reality, recovery is a journey and life-long process and there will be struggles down that road. Reverting back into substance abuse addiction will often do so because recovery isn’t happening fast enough.
Addiction can do many things to you, and one of the most common things it does is isolate you from those you love. When you complete treatment, you feel an overwhelming need to reconnect with family, friends and significant others. Feeling wanted and loved is the most basic and most important thing we as human beings need to feel complete and alive. Establishing relationships is very important, but diving into a more intimate relationship can derail your recovery. Early recovery can be an emotional rollercoaster and it is difficult to sort your emotions., and adding an intimate relationship on top of that inner turmoil is dangerous. Failing to avoid relationships in early recovery is a sign of relapse and will throw up many red flags to those in your support system.
Relapse Prevention is Key
There is no doubt that you will encounter obstacles and temptations in your recovery. While there are many pitfalls that can ensnare you, there are many tools and resources at your disposal that can help minimize the risk of relapse. Whether it is a renewed focus on 12-step meetings, engaging in an exercise program, diving into volunteer work or taking up a new hobby, you must take any means necessary to preserve and protect the sobriety that you have worked so hard to achieve.
26 responses to “How to Recognize the 13 Signs of Relapse”
I have 637 clean days and have been thinking about using today. It’s not the first time it has crossed my mind but today was the hardest! I got on Facebook to clear my mind and came across this… It really helped me out to know that I’m not alone.Thank you
Your never alone, Call on Jesus, and he will comfort you.
I don’t know you, yet am proud of you.
I’ve watched very close loved ones shatter over drugs..
Prescription and street.and I have a beautiful niece that is now in a long term recover home.I see a bright future for her, fulfilling her dreams.
Dream, and one step at a time (with Jesus) fulfill your dreams.
We’re never to old,to dream.
Well said!-Thank you for identifying your concept of God.I also believe in Jesus,and that is a rather controversial subject to some.I never apologize for the Truth,and I admire your courage for doing the same.You do NOT mislead anyone when you exalt the Lord.Along with Jesus,comes accountability to a higher power,which is Great -destroys any ambiguous concept or rationalization that I may create.
I don’t think it is helpful to push your religious beliefs in recovery. It is uncomfortable to those who don’t have the same beliefs as you do. to say that if you believe in Jesus you’re going to recover is kinda crazy. I understand you feel love and hope from your higher power and you want people to experience the same relief as you, but you’re literally telling someone to believe in Jesus to get better. if you participate in a 12 step program you know that it’s a spirutal, not religious program. There is nothing wrong with identifying your higher power or telling other recovering addicts or alcoholics about your beliefs, but please do not push others to believe as you do. It can be very discouraging and many people feel uncomfortable being told to pray to Jesus etc. Just my 2 cents.
Well said Jackie I couldn’t agree more 🙂 I am 30 days I to my recovery and yes a part of me believes in God ” To the God of our choice”
I just wanted to thank you for sharing you’re writing. So funny how what you need always comes at rhe perfect time if you pay attention. I have a year today and this was the perfect reminder to my night. Congratulations to you and I look forward to reading more of your work. Now I must pay it forward. God bless!
I appreciate this page. On the 16th it will be 8 months sober for me. I am happy to have made the choices I have, to live my life sober. Thank you all for the positive feedback and the time others have put into making this page so awesome!
Needed to hear this. Working pn 90 days.
400 days and showing some of the 13 signs, good to read and be reminded, even though I KNOW!
Im 120 days sober. This is my 2nd time. Im feeling so good now. Keeping going back to the meetings and new friends really helped too. And also have your God to be with us too.
Fighting addiction is rough no matter what your habit is….Mine is smoking and I feel that its a demon I fight everyday. Knowing there are others fighting the addiction battle helps me be strong. I’ve had to change many things about my day as I’m termed “a situational smoker.” Morning coffee, when drinking, friends who smoke and social situations. Sometimes I get lonely trying to stay away from these, But, when my kids and grandkids are so happy that I’ve stopped, its worth it. Hang in there everyone!
I’m in recovery as well and am a smoker. I’ve managed to stay clean from opiates, psychedelics and many other substances I used, but not cigarettes. I tried to quit in rehab but I couldnt. I have found that out of everything that I used, cigarettes is the hardest to stop. I’m almost 6 months clean, but I still can’t manage to quit smoking. Congratulations on your accomplishment! It takes a strong person with a strong recovery to stay sober. I admire your dedication. Don’t give up!
One is too many and a thousand never enough.
Its been 5 weeks and yes some of this rang true ….cheers step meeting tonight
Almost 29 years sober and I really enjoyed this article. How did I do it? I kept coming to meetings, good sponsorship, and always kept my recovery in the number one slot. I still remember what Bud taste like and l also remember what it did to me and my family.
All those years, well done, great achievement but not always easy. 12 & a half years for me, difficult at times losing my mum & husband sadly but still got through it & now love life & have two beautiful little granddaughters, well worth it but u have to stay strong.
Keep this going it helped me …
Love this article……been having using thoughts all day…8 1/2 yrs clean, i even told a friend that i didnt care if i relapsed today that i was done…….i truely see a couple of these signs in my behavior lately.
2 months sober I was having using thoughts. It got really bad and i decided to relapse. Since I was thinking about using, I thought it meant I wanted to get high. I was visiting my parents and snuck into my mom’s room. The whole time I kepts telling myself that I didn’t want to do this. I took some pills out of her prescription bottle. I had them in my hand and kept thinking how i didnt want them. I ended up telling my dad and gave them to him to give back to my mom 30 minutes later. Looking back I realize that I had given my thoughts power over me. I didnt want to take the pills, but I stole them from my mom anyways because I was thinking about it. I thought that thinking about getting high meant that I wanted to get high. A thought is a thought. It doesn’t have to control you! I would think about using and believe that I was gonna use and that something must be wrong with me, but then I learned the difference between a thought and a craving. A thought doesn’t have to mean anything. Just remember that you are stronger than your thoughts. You do not have to act on them. Now if I think about using I tell myself “It’s just a thought. It doesn’t mean anything” and it goes away. Usually I’d think about using and freak out and start obsessing. Please go to a meeting and share with others there about your current struggles. An addict alone is in bad company. Stay strong!
Thank you it’s a helpful article. I do see myself in these signs. I was defensive when other members pointed this out. I certainly dont want to relapse. I have to keep putting in the time and effort.
I have 6 years clean and sober, I think about my past daily and pray to be a better person tomorrow than I was today every night.
The people like us wanna know the secret..The secret is truthfully,lovingly and with a broken heart ask for God to take your obsession away, The work in return of the miracle is up to us.
Meetings, sponsoring,sponseeing humbly and being real. I play my worst days tape back until my mind remembers where I never want to be again.
I’m constantly challenged but I let go. Letting go means hitting your knees. We are different but we are a family of people that can only keep what we have by giving it away. If your on day one, just ask and you will receive. Not until I did that very thing I spoke of did I become a new person. You will feel pure love and a knowledge you can’t explain.
Will you still think about going back out, yep, everyday. The cool thing is you have a choice now because you know now.
6 years going on Life
Is better than one day of pain and maybe dying. Lost everything but got it back in ways I can’t illustrate.
Love to all
I’m trying but i keep relapsing… My husbands suicide is now killing me cuz idc anymore… My nights r filled with nightmares but I need 2 put the bottle down! My kids need me n I can’t die with him! I’m only 30
When my dad died, I thought here is my chance, when my son was abused by his ex step dad I said let’s go. When I lost 19 good Firefighter friends I was ready to go.
I didn’t. Whatever power that is your higher power may be, call to it, him, her.
I promise you a broken heart does not go unheard.
Much love to all
Thanks for the knowledge you’ve shared for continuing recovery..God bless!