Maintaining sobriety can be challenging, especially for those struggling with addiction. Relapsing is common, and the potential is always there. But knowing the warning signs can help avoid it.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, every addict relapses at least once. It can be hazardous for those who abstained from it for long periods and no longer have tolerance.
Once relapse has occurred, it can be extremely difficult to get back on the road to recovery. Here are a few warning signs you never want to ignore.
1. Behavior Changes
Relapse is more than just a one-time event. It is usually a slow-moving process. It is broken down into three stages. Emotional, mental, and physical.
Emotional is the first and occurs often before the thought of using it even happens. The individual will start to lose sleep, create strange eating habits, have negative emotional responses such as anger, and will usually stop using their support systems.
2. Thought Changes
Then the mental stage begins an internal struggle. Consider this a tug of war situation to stay on the path of recovery. Direct thoughts will begin to arise. Then it becomes an issue of when.
Usually, once someone with this chronic illness thinks about using, it is only a matter of time until they do. The mental stage is often impossible to come back from.
This will give way to the third and final stage of relapse and the physical. Getting this person into treatment as soon as you can is imperative. The one-time use isn’t often actually a one-time use and can lead to a spiral of addiction again.
3. Romanticizing Use
One of the most common signs of relapse is the romanticizing of drug use. Reliving the times they used and often glorifying it. Any positive view of these times is a dangerous trigger point. This can easily give way to the mental stage and then the inevitable of following the physical stage. More information on this can be found here.
4. Underestimating Use
A person may begin to believe they can use again in small amounts or are now able to control themselves around the substance. Addiction is a chronic illness. It does not go away and needs to be dealt with continually. The only way to recover is full abstention from the abuse. Talk of this is a good indicator that a relapse is coming.
5. Personality Traits
Keep tabs on their behavior. Are they suddenly very irritable and angry? Are they binge eating or having strange sleeping patterns? They may pull away from their support system or lose interest in hobbies they’ve taken up.
Negative relationships, environments, or past people/situations that involved drug abuse are also an indicator. Any abrupt behavior that you do not recognize is often a sign of the beginning emotional stage of relapse.
There are many things that can trigger a relapse, which should also be looked out for. Depression is the leading cause. Look for signs of guilt, low energy, hopelessness, loss of appetite, consciousness, irritability, and loss of interest. Stress can also be a trigger. Stress is a part of life, but some handle it better than others, and some are put under more pressure.
Life circumstances are ever-changing and can be difficult to process. Know who you are dealing with and what their lives before, during, and after addiction looked like. Was stress a previous trigger? If so, it will be a coping mechanism again if not looked out for.
Exhaustion can also be a trigger. Lack of sleep or exhaustion can lead to a lack of self-love and neglect. Staying sober takes daily focus and is hard. When falling off a normal routine, it can be easy to back slide into old ways.
Self-isolation is the last major trigger. Make sure your loved one always knows they have a support system not just with other people in recovery, but also with you. It is important they are surrounded by support at all times.
Be knowledgeable about what to look out for and who you are looking out for. Every person is different, and so are their circumstances. Lastly, keep some therapists, doctors, and rehabilitation centers in your back pocket for emergencies. Check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.