For people struggling with addiction, staying clean can be an everyday struggle and the potential for a relapse is always there. Anything can be a trigger, leading them back to the old, dangerous way of life that involved alcohol and substance abuse.
Relapse is more common than most of us imagine it to be. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), every individual recovering from any sort of addiction often experience at least one relapse in their lifetime. The statistics are alarming. However, the situation is not hopeless. Thousands of people overcome addiction and issues relating to relapse every day, successfully managing to return back to a happy and healthy lifestyle.
The good news is that a relapse can be prevented. All you need to do is identify the warning signs of an impending relapse and take proper actions to stop it before it can do any damage. Before we look at some of the most common signs of a relapse, it is important to understand what triggers it in the first place.
Triggers of a Relapse
Triggers can be defined as events or emotions that can cause an individual to slide back into an addiction. Here’s a list of most common triggers of a relapse.
1. Close Physical Proximity to the Substance
Sometimes, simply being close to a substance can trigger a relapse. For example, if an individual recovering from alcohol addiction is in close proximity to alcohol for a long time, obviously, it becomes difficult for them to ignore the craving. The closer an individual is to the substance, the more they will want to try it again.
2. Negative Emotions
Stress is the biggest trigger of a relapse. When an individual experiences negative emotions, they look for a way to overcome stress and make themselves feel better. This makes them crave their substance of choice since it poses an easy escape to them. Negative emotions and feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, shame, and hopelessness can push toward a relapse.
3. People and Places
The people and places that were part of the addiction can trigger a relapse. For example, for a recovering alcoholic, this could be meeting an old friend with whom they used to drink. Similarly, going to places like pubs and bars can trigger a relapse. These triggers are especially dangerous in the early stages of recovery. This is why it is advisable for recovering individuals to avoid places where they were accustomed to using substances or drinking.
Telltale Signs of a Relapse
It is important to understand that relapse is a gradual process. It may seem like a single event triggered it. However, in most cases, that single event is simply the last straw. This means it is possible to stop a relapse. All you have to do is look for the warning signs. Let’s have a look at some telltale signs of an impending relapse.
1. Elevated Stress
Stress can easily lead an individual to a full-blown relapse. Any major change in life can trigger stress. For recovering individuals, moving out of a rehabilitation facility and settling back into real life can cause enough stress to make them turn to a bottle of alcohol. Similarly, frequent questions about addiction at work or from family members can elevate stress levels. On the other hand, family issues or a particularly stressful phase at work can also trigger stress, which, in turn, triggers a relapse.
The best course of action in this situation is to understand the core cause of stress and work on it. In the meanwhile, an individual can practice stress management techniques to deal with the daily stress of life and prevent it from building up.
2. Change in Demeanor
Change in demeanor or attitude is one of the biggest warning signs. For some reason, an individual may decide that participating in a recovery program is not important anymore. They may ignore the emotional and physical needs of their loved ones and become withdrawn from them. They may become defensive or start picking fights for no reason. It is easy to see that something is wrong but it sure is hard to identify exactly what it is!
3. Return of Withdrawal Symptoms
This is perhaps the biggest red flag. When a recovering individual is on the verge of a relapse, they may experience the return of withdrawal symptoms. Along with the craving to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, they may experience headaches, stomach pains, memory loss, shivering and a number of other withdrawal symptoms. This further tempts them to start drinking or using drugs to alleviate these symptoms. However, the best solution is to find the source of the stress causing these symptoms and remove it.
4. Psychological Signs
A number of psychological signs are customary to an impending relapse. Here’s a list of some of the most common psychological warning signs of a relapse.
- Symptoms of depression
- Symptoms of anxiety
- Feelings of unhappiness
- Severe mood swings
- Feeling agitated for no reason
- Symptoms of sleeping disorder or difficulty in sleeping
5. Change in Routine and Sleep Pattern
A change in a healthy routine can indicate a relapse. Similarly, a sudden change in libido or a disruption in the sleeping pattern of a recovering addict are telltale signs of a relapse. If you notice this behavior in yourself or someone that you know, know that something is wrong.
6. Social Breakdown
A social breakdown is hard to miss. The recovering individual feels like cutting off all social interactions. They push people away and stop spending time with sober friends. They may actively work to remove the support structure that helped them through their rehabilitation program. All of these are warning signs of a relapse.
Remember, the path of recovery is not easy and it is common to slip a few times. However, a full-scale relapse is avoidable and you should do all that you can to make sure addiction does not ruin your life and relationships. If you think you or someone you know are heading towards a relapse, don’t hesitate to contact Scottsdale Recovery Center to get the help that you need.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.