Addiction Relapse Signs
By: 2SC Staff
Recovering from an addiction takes a lot of work in order to be successful. It is an ongoing process that no one understands unless they have been there themselves. Like a snake hiding in the grass, the desire to use can strike at any time – and without warning.
If you are currently involved with a twelve-step program as part of your recovery, you probably have been told by your sponsor to be on the lookout for various relapse warning signs. If so, this article is for you.
As a counselor who works with lots of people trying to stay on the path to sobriety, I thought it might be helpful to visit some of the relapse warning sign “biggies”.
What follows are 7 major warning signs that your recovery may be in jeopardy. Some of these points may seem like common sense while others will require a bit of reflection. Read them all in order in order to fully absorb their deeper meaning.
Let’s get right to it!
1) Meetings are a thing of the past
In order to stay away from drugs or alcohol, it is important to have some kind of ongoing support. That’s what the 12-step meetings are all about! If you suddenly stop going to meetings however, consider this a major relapse warning sign.
Under this point, be aware of the excuses you are using to justify your behaviors. Common self-written permission slips to “skip” include, “I just don’t have time” and “I’m not like the people in those rooms.” Sound familiar?
2) You stop things that were working
Whether it was an exercise regime, healthy eating routine or quiet time writing in a journal, stopping activities that once helped you stay clean should be an indication that something is up. Remember, having an addiction means struggling with the desire to use on a number of fronts.
Depression and anxiety can creep up on you without warning, which in turn can cause you to disconnect and isolate. These symptoms almost always are a precursor to relapse if left unchecked. If you have become disinterested in once healthy and meaningful activities, reach out to your sponsor or therapist right away – for real!
3) Romanticizing old times
If you find yourself glamorizing and reminiscing about times when you had used a given substance, this is a potential sign you may subconsciously want to go back to your old ways. Don’t freak out it’s a common experience among folks in recovery. Some people even dream about relapse (see our post on dreams).
The relapse warning sign you will want to pay attention to here is when you focus almost exclusively on “the good times” and discount all of the bad things that happened. Distortions are part of addiction. Pay attention to the cognitive ones because they will often lie to you!
4) Fantasy based thinking
If you keep thinking to yourself that “one sip won’t hurt me” or “I’ll just do it when I socialize”, you are making excuses that empower the demons of relapse. Anyone who has been in a recovery program knows that you cannot have “just one”. To think otherwise is simply a fantasy.
If you were addicted to something, it means you have a psychological and physical dependence upon the drug or activity (or both). It also means in order for the addiction to be arrested, it needs to be stopped 100%. That may sound rough but it’s very much true.
5) A return to familiar behaviors
If you find you are returning to old and familiar behaviors when you were using, you may be heading towards relapse land. There’s an old saying in the field of recovery that you probably have heard of – people, places and things.
What does this mean? Well, basically we’re talking about triggers. If you are hanging out with people who use, going to places where folks party or involving yourself with things that fuel addictive behaviors, you are putting yourself at risk for relapse. Pretty straight forward, huh?
6) You look up “old friends”
Are you looking through your smart-phone’s address book for people you once partied with? Do you still have your dealer’s digits? Have you been scrolling through your contacts to see who might be available to “hang” with? If so, alarm bells should be going off on the relapse front.
Another saying in the addiction world is this: Relapse happens before we pick up the bottle (or pipe or fill in the blank). The psychological desire to use can sometimes be overwhelming. When you start to have thoughts of “chillaxing” with old buds that you know are not healthy for you – consider this a warning sign.
7) You get defensive
Have friends, family members or people from your program expressed concerns about your recent “odd” behaviors? When these observations are brought to your attention, do you get defensive and lash out?
While it’s true nobody wants their recovery to be micro-managed, it’s also true that people who are in your circle of support can “see” what’s going on – even if you are living in denial. If you have noticed a pattern where others are coming to you from a place of support with concerns and you are responding with anger; consider this a potential relapse warning sign. Yep – folks see a lot more than you might think. Oh … trying to “hide” from others falls under this point too!
Relapse Final Thoughts
Recovery from addiction isn’t easy. Anyone who suggests otherwise simply doesn’t know what they are talking about. Part of healing means getting comfortable with knowing the relapse warning signs.
One book I have recommended to clients is 12-Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery by Dr. Allen Berger. What I like about this resource is Dr. Berger’s conversational and straight forward approach. He offers lots of practical insight – with tools to help you identify and change behaviors that may be leading to problems down the road.
I hope you found this post useful! Please feel free to share other warning signs not mentioned here in the discussion area. Thanks for visiting 2nd Story Counseling Chicago online. Like us on Facebook, Circle on Google+ and Follow us on Twitter!