We all hope for the best for our loved ones when it comes to addiction and recovery. However, while a positive attitude is helpful, so is a realistic one. The reality is that for many recovering addicts, relapse is very much part of the journey. The good news? Keeping an eye out for warning signs can help play a proactive role in getting your loved one back on track. Here’s a closer look at four signs and symptoms of an impending relapse.
1. Making excuses
Meaningful recovery is hard work. Without ongoing effort, the underlying issues that led to addiction in the first place can simply manifest in another form. While your loved one may not return to using drugs or alcohol, they may turn to another form of self-medication, such as food, sex, gambling, or another compulsive addiction. In justifying these behaviors, addicts are exhibiting denial, which can be a slippery slope back into addiction. True recovery lies in confronting all of the various forms of addiction.
2. Thinking they’re cured
Just as addiction is a chronic disease, addiction is a lifelong process. Whether a person has achieved sobriety for days, weeks, months or years, relapse is still a threat — hence the origins of the “one day at a time” principle. While every day of sobriety is worth celebrating, overconfidence can lead to complacency, which can lead to substance use and abuse.
Many people think because they’ve achieved a certain degree of sobriety that they can start using in moderation again. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While recovery can and does get easier over time, it’s essential for addicts to keep working the program, remain attuned to their feelings, and proactively engage in healthy behaviors.
3. Believing that relapse is inevitable
While being too confident can lead to relapse, so can thinking that relapse is ultimately unavoidable. When addicts start second-guessing themselves, it opens a crack that may grow over time. The same applies to letting yourself begin to think that life was better when you were using. Sure, drinking and doing drugs can be fun at the moment — much more fun than the work of recovery. However, the fun doesn’t last and the consequences always come back stronger and harder than before.
There’s no better evidence of the power of recovery than the testimonies of people in long-term recovery. Not only are they all living proof that even seemingly hopeless situations can be turned around, but they’ll also attest to how amazing life free of the shackles of addiction can feel.
4. Thinking they can do it on their own
A strong support network can make or break the recovery process. From family and friends to therapists and support groups, these people can lift addicts up when they’re down and keep them moving forward when they want to stop. Asking for help demonstrates a willingness to learn and grow while ignoring or refusing help demonstrates that an addict may not be ready to fully embrace a life of sobriety.
Being sober isn’t just something you are or aren’t; it’s an entirely new way of life. Without a network of people to bolster them in their commitment to living sober, the chances of failure are much higher. (On a similar note, spending time with people who are using is the opposite of a healthy support network and can lead to temptation and relapse.)
Lastly, skipping meetings, therapy appointments, and outpatient groups may reveal a backslide into old behaviors.
One final thing to keep in mind? While knowing these warning signs can help prevent relapse, in some cases it will happen anyway. Regardless of the scenario, the solution is not shaming but support. If you’re worried that a friend or family member is in danger of relapsing, professional intervention may be in order. Leading St. Louis rehab center Harris House has been helping addicts and the people who love them for more than 50 years. Call us today to learn about admissions.