Whether you’re recently clean and sober or a long-term recovery veteran, relapse is always a risk. You may slip up, run into triggering events, or find yourself suddenly unable to cope with cravings. However, in most cases, addiction relapse doesn’t happen overnight. It builds up over time, and there are signs and symptoms that it will happen.
By recognizing yours, you can work to change your behavior and your mentality so that you can keep yourself clean and sober. While most relapses start from a single ‘triggering’ event, it is your behavior, your choices, and your attitude that contributes to whether that trigger results in relapse or not.
1. You’re Unhappy
Unhappiness of any kind will almost always contribute towards substance use. People use substances to cope with stress, anger, loneliness, exhaustion, and nearly every other form of negative emotions. Worst of all, negative emotions feed into addiction, you feel bad, so you use to give yourself a boost or a break and then you feel worse because you used and you broke your sobriety – quickly leading you into a continuous cycle of abuse and back into addiction.
If you recognize that you’re unhappy consistently, get help. Try to work out or solve the problems causing unhappiness, attend therapy, and make sure you’re seeing your support groups. You can’t always avoid being unhappy and being happy all the time isn’t possible or healthy, but you should be able to manage your emotions, take time out, and destress with exercise, mental health time, therapy, and hobbies.
2. Withdrawing from Friends, Family, and Support
Many people come to the subconscious realization that they want to use again before actually doing so. They then begin to withdraw from family and friends as well as support groups – usually with excuses like it doesn’t matter, doesn’t help, or ‘whatever’. Once you’ve begun to rationalize drug or alcohol use to yourself, you naturally remove accountability and people who might judge you for it – even if you haven’t yet admitted that you’re thinking about using again to yourself.
What can you do about it? Start spending more time with your community, your support groups, and your friends and family. When you’re thinking about using, you need everyone the most. Don’t be afraid to talk about it in group therapy, or if you don’t have a group therapy, try to join one.
3. You’re Overextending Yourself
HALT or Hungry Angry Lonely Tired describes a series of negative emotions that lead to relapse. If you’re trying to do too much, overextending yourself, and never have time to rest or relax, you might be headed for a relapse. It’s important to pace yourself, take time to relax, and make sure that you don’t do more than you can without causing unneeded stress or unhappiness.
What can you do about it? Start saying no to other people more often, review the things you’re doing every day and cut back more possible, and take a more moderate approach to everything you’re doing. If your plans take a little longer to achieve, that will be better than driving yourself into relapse.
4. You Catch Yourself Being Nostalgic or Rationalizing “One More Time”
Whether old friends are back in town, you find yourself romanticizing substance use, or fondly remembering ‘the good old days’ in any way, you’re setting yourself up for relapse. Remembering substance use in a positive light and reminiscing about it will generate cravings and you will have difficulty saying no. If you let yourself do it often enough, you might relapse. You might also be thinking of the good times with substance use after you’ve been exposed to a trigger and you’ve already subconsciously decided to start using again. You might also find yourself romanticizing old friends and friendships, but if they’re still using, it can only turn out badly.
How can you fight good memories? You don’t have to. Just make sure you remember the bad at the same time. For every minute of good times with drug use, you likely had an equal or longer period with rough hangovers, no money, no friends, health problems, and pain. Remind yourself of all the reasons you quit and all the good things you’ve achieved since then.
5. You Get Defensive and Angry
Getting defensive and angry about someone asking if you’re using or thinking about using is a bad sign. Defensiveness and anger are a sign of guilt, and if you’re not thinking about using, you’re not usually guilty. That’s important, because many of us develop strong habits of self-denial when addicted. Going through therapy may not be enough to correct those habits.
If you’re defensive when someone asks, you probably need to go back to a group, get further counseling, or talk about your cravings with your substance group.
Similarly, some people develop addict-behavior right before a relapse. You might suddenly become selfish and agitated, have a low tolerance for noise, be irritable, and easily become upset. These are all symptoms that you are headed for a relapse and you need to talk to your counselor or therapist.
6. You’re Experiencing Emotional Turmoil
Emotional upsets like breakups, deaths in the family, car accidents and other forms of trauma are all huge triggers for addiction. You also have to watch out for suddenly being on your own (even on a vacation), losing a family pet, or otherwise experiencing emotional turmoil of any kind.
The only real way to fight this is to work on self-discipline, learn to cope with grief and emotions in behavioral therapy, and ensure that you have a strong support group to lean back onto.
7. Something Major Happens in Your Life
While it makes sense for most of us that we might slip up and relapse when bad things happen, the opposite is often true. Most people don’t relapse when the family pet dies, they relapse when they buy a house, get a new car, get married. Good events kick off a need for celebration, which can quickly turn into a strong craving for substances. Caught up in a celebratory mood, you might be more prone to saying “just the once”.
Make sure you’re around people who will hold you accountable, remember that you are at risk when good things happen, and ensure that you are ready to fight cravings.
If you’ve slipped up and had a drink or used, it’s not the end. Relapse is very often part of the process of recovery. Many people slip up and then return to abstinence, more aware of what causes them to relapse and ready to go back into treatment to ensure that they don’t slip up again. Relapse is never good, but the important thing is that you don’t stop there, go back into treatment, see your counselor, go to AA or NA, and keep yourself moving forward.
Hopefully, you can stop yourself from relapsing before you actually do. If not, get clean and sober again as quickly as possible so you can continue your recovery. Being honest with yourself, understanding what went wrong, and talking about it with your recovery group and your therapist.
No matter where you are in your recovery, relapse is a risk. If you understand the warning signs and can admit when you need help, you can avoid a relapse.
If you are looking for a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California, feel free to contact Anaheim Lighthouse today , we’re here to help.