Did My Loved One Relapse?
Recovering from addiction is not linear. There are ups and downs, and sometimes a step forward leads to two steps back. Relapse is, unfortunately, a common part of recovery. According to the American Medical Association Journal, about 50% of people relapse within a year of treatment. Nearly half of the people recovering from drug, alcohol, or behavioral addictions may take several tries to kick a habit completely.
Still, backsliding into substance abuse or a behavioral addiction is not something that happens overnight. It is a slow process that begins with a thought and then a few more until it leads to use. It can start weeks or months before an individual picks up a drink or drug. People in later stages of relapsing typically experience thoughts like, “One drink is okay,” or “I’m just hanging out with friends. It’s not a big deal if I smoke,” long before actually using. But during those moments of denial, a person has already entered the early stages of relapse.
Signs Of Relapse
Though relapse is common, with the right tools and support of loved ones and treatment professionals, it is avoidable. Recognizing the signs is vital but not easy. It is easier to distinguish resurfacing toxic habits in some versus others. Still, there are some universal ways to identify if your loved one is amid a rebound. Below are some of the common signs of relapse, according to several medical studies and researchers.
High Levels Of Stress
If your loved one is experiencing high stress levels due to a significant change or a build-up of minor things, pay closer attention to them. Stress is one of the most powerful predictors of relapse, and unfortunately, there is a lot of it in the modern world. Circumstances like searching for a job, divorce, or even adjusting to life outside of rehab can lead to a slip. Other indicators like an over reaction to “spilled milk” or misplaced keys can also indicate your loved one is feeling overwhelmed by the smaller inconveniences of life.
Attitude And Behavior Towards Sobriety
When a loved one first leaves rehab, they may seem proud and excited to continue their journey towards recovery. They will attend support groups, engage with sponsors, and practice habits learned during treatments. But if you notice those practices are beginning to fall off, take note. If your loved one, for whatever reason, is participating less in their recovery program or seems less enthusiastic about their sobriety, something is wrong. If you see a change in their healthy routines or find their behavior defensive and avoidant, that is a red flag.
Social Avoidance And Isolation
Right after leaving a treatment facility, it is normal for a person to feel uncomfortable around others. But if the individual is making no attempts to socialize or always has an excuse for why they can’t attend an event, something is off. Your loved one may even be cutting off people who support their sobriety. If you notice their hygiene is worsening whenever you do see them, a change in their weight, or that they look tired, take note.
Risky Behavior And Exposure
For individuals to maintain and support their recovery, they have to make a complete lifestyle change. But when someone is relapsing, they may begin to fall back into old habits like making risky decisions. They make irrational choices like attempting social drinking or recreational drug use. If you notice your loved one is having trouble making healthy choices, seems confused, or has self-control issues, they may be relapsing. Another indicator is if they are hanging out with the same social circles who influenced their use in the first place.
Ways To Prevent Relapse
The symptoms listed above are only some of the common ways to identify relapse. Sadly it is not always easy to recognize when someone you love is backsliding. It could take weeks or months before anyone notices the problem. The phenomenon is intrusive, sneaky, and can happen to anyone in recovery. Still, there are ways to combat it.
Below are some of the most common ways to help your loved one combat a relapse:
- Encourage self-care.
- Please do your best to make them feel safe communicating with you.
- Identify their triggers and help your loved one avoid them.
- Keep things light and fun by suggesting new activities or travel.
- Have an open mind and avoid judgment.
- Ask them if they’d like you to attend therapy or support groups with them.
- Keep alcohol or drugs out of sight.
- Be honest about your struggles and how you overcame them.
- Offer support whenever possible.
Relapses happen; it is part of the recovery process. The path towards sobriety is achievable yet often messy. If you notice your loved one is possibly relapsing, do your best to help. Pay attention to the signs and intervene as soon as you can. But remember, if they do relapse, it is not because of anything you did or did not do. So be patient with them and with yourself. It’s all part of the process.
Find Help For Relapse Prevention
If you or a loved one are experiencing a relapse, there is help available. Treatment providers can answer rehab-related questions and provide treatment information. Reach out to a treatment provider today.
Suzette Gomez earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida. Her desire to help others led her to a Pre-medical track with a focus on psychological and social development. After graduation, she pursued her passion for writing and began working as a Digital Content Writer at Recovery Worldwide LLC. With her background in medicine, Suzette uses both science and the arts to serve the public through her writing.
- More from Suzette Gomez
- Steven M. Melemis. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. Retrieved on June 29, 2021, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Retrieved on June 29, 2021, from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
- Rudolf H. Moos and Bernice S. Moos. (2007). Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders. Retrieved on June 29, 2021, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1976118/
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2007). Recovery Is Possible. Retrieved on June 29, 2021, from: https://www.cdc.gov/rxawareness/treatment/index.html
- Nicholas Guenzel; Dennis McChargue. (2021). Addiction Relapse Prevention. Retrieved on June 29, 2021, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551500/