As addicts, drugs and alcohol take over our actions, as well as our thoughts. The “great obsession” of using liquefies any desire to pursue interests that we either used to love or might find enriching to our lives. Refreshed and renewed, many of us feel the overwhelming need to replenish our desires with healthy actions. And this is where the concept of a new #drugofchoice is formulated.

Relapse is not an event – it is a process. Many addicts do not even realize they are in danger of relapse before it is almost too late, and they find themselves face-to-face with a glass of wine or a bag of dope. However, although many recovered addicts are familiar with the pitfalls of picking up after a period of sobriety, relapse does not need to be a part of any journey into recovery – seeing as it is always preventable if caught early enough. The biggest and most crucial aspect of preventing relapse is knowing what personal signs to look for and change your behavior as quickly as possible.

Relapse Happens in Stages

Relapse tends to happen in stages. The first stage is emotional relapse – recognizing emotional relapse and immediately changing behavior is absolutely crucial to staying sober. Emotions that arise and cause discomfort should be looked at thoroughly, and as soon as you recognize a negative shift in the way you feel, be sure to take action towards changing that feeling to the best of your ability. Here are several signs of emotional relapse, and ideas regarding how you can take action to rapidly reverse your potentially dangerous emotional condition.

  • If you catch yourself isolating: Reach out! Formulating a solid system of sober supports is by far one of the most important parts of maintaining sobriety. This is also a major reason why getting a sponsor in early sobriety is so important! Make sure you carry around a list of numbers, people you know and trust and can call whenever you’re feeling lonely.
  • If you start to feel anxious: Practice relaxation techniques! Breathe deeply, count to 10, take a short walk outside and appreciate the fresh air. Practice any grounding techniques you may have learned in treatment. And again – reach out! Tell someone how you are feeling and listen to any advice they may have regarding how to calm yourself down.
  • If you feel exhausted: Give yourself a break! During your first year of sobriety (and every year of sobriety following) the most important job in your life will be staying sober – and it is no small task! Allow yourself to take catnaps when you need them, and make sure you always get your 8 hours at night.
  • You feel underappreciated: Reward yourself! Staying sober on any given day is a huge accomplishment, and you deserve to treat yourself once in awhile. Sign up for a yoga class or a painting lesson. Take a couple hours to simply relax and play your favorite video game, or eat an entire pint of ice cream to yourself.

Relapse Is Never Necessary

In the case of obvious behavior changes such as skipping meetings, simply start going to meetings and let someone know that you haven’t been to one in awhile. Remember – you are not alone. There are many recovered addicts and alcoholics who have either experienced relapse or successfully avoided it, and they would undoubtedly be more than happy to pass down the knowledge and insight they’ve gained.

Relapse – return to the use of drugs and alcohol after an extended period of sobriety. Relapse is the main thing that addicts and alcoholics spend their lives trying to avoid, because it is common knowledge that once one makes his or her way out of the rooms it may be impossible to come back. Relapse can mean death – it can mean losing everything one has worked so hard to regain. And while some may claim that relapse is just a part of recovery, this is not the case. Relapse is always avoidable as long as you catch your behavior soon enough and make an effort to turn it around. Here are 10 sings that you may be headed in a dangerous direction – and what you can do to get back on track.

10 Warning Signs of Relapse

  1. Avoidance of responsibilities and issues. Rather than addressing problems that may arise, you lock yourself in your room and simply ignore them. Things seem to be less important overall, and responsibilities are put off or discounted entirely. Take a look at why you are being so avoidant and do what you can to change it!
  2. Obvious routine changes. You might start missing work or stop exercising on a regular basis. Maybe you decide that three meetings per week is enough, or that calling your sponsor every other night is sufficient enough. Be aware of any routine changes, and talk about why you may be neglecting certain activities or requirements.
  3. Changes in hygiene, sleep, and appetite. If you have been sleeping or eating less, it may be because you have slipped into somewhat of a depression. If you find yourself isolating be sure to reach out. Call several sober supports and tell them you’ve been in a bit of a slump – invite them to the movies or out to eat. Laughing with friends is truly the best medicine.
  4. Spending time with friends from your using days. If you’ve been getting in touch with friends that you know are still actively using, you may want to stop and check your motives. If they know your situation and still use around you, you are undoubtedly putting yourself in a precarious position. If you truly miss old friends put aside a small amount of time for them – but never spend time with them while they are partying.
  5. If you start to obsess about certain things that were never an issue beforehand – appearance, cleanliness, work – take a step back and check yourself. Go to a meeting and share about your perfectionistic qualities, someone will inevitably be able to relate and help you pinpoint why you are acting out in this way specifically.
  6. Obsessive behavior in one specific area. If you are obsessing about one thing in particular, it might be because you are lacking overall balance in your life. Be sure you are dividing time equally between school or work, sobriety, spending time with friends and family, and spending time alone.
  7. Excessive anger. If you’ve been getting into more fights than usual or if you have been getting easily frustrated, it may be a good idea to explore why it is you’re so on edge. Excessive anger is also usually related to a lack of balance. Remember to take time to meditate and relax. Practice gratitude. And, as always… reach out.
  8. Tempting fate. Hanging out in bars or in places you know you can easily obtain your drug of choice is never a good idea. If you find yourself in places you know deep down you have no business being in, remove yourself and call a friend to come get you.
  9. Glamorizing use. There is nothing wrong with sharing how bad your drug or alcohol use got in order to help others, but glamorizing the good times you had while drunk or high is counterproductive to your recovery. Try to catch yourself when you’re enthusiastically relaying war stories and make sure you don’t forget how bad it got.
  10. Obsessing over drugs or alcohol. If drugs and alcohol are all you can seem to think about, it is crucial that you reach out for help. Get yourself to a meeting, share about your obsession, and call any and every sober supports you may have. If you do not get outside of yourself and start taking action relapse is undeniably on the horizon. Yet even at this point, relapse is preventable. Take action, and you will make it, unscathed, through another day.

The Hope Center

The Hope Center for Rehabilitation offers a full range of services both leading up to, during and following treatment, including professional interventions, a luxury, medically assisted detox program, inpatient rehabilitation (30-90 days), intensive out-patient rehabilitation and out-patient services. Each of our clients become a part of our alumni program at the completion of their treatment to help foster a continued community of recovery.

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