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      Sober Nation

      Putting Recovery On The Map

      02-09-16 | By

      How to Recognize the 13 Signs of Relapse

      13 Signs of RelapseOne 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

      I'm all better!

      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”

      just one

      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

      old friends-2

      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

      couch potato

      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.

      Being Defensive


      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

      compulsive bx

      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.

      Unrealistic Expectations


      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.

      Intimate Relationships


      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.


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