Addiction relapse happens when you resume pathological pursuit of the “rewards” you used to seek through alcohol or substance abuse. Since addiction is a chronic disease, relapse is fairly common.
An estimated 40 to 60 percent of people in recovery experience relapse. However, this is not out of line with relapse figures for people with other chronic diseases, such as type 1 diabetes. It happens, and it is not the end of the world.
The sooner you recognize signs of potential relapse and address them, the easier it will be to get your recovery back on track. Here are seven signs you are headed for relapse – signs you should heed and address promptly.
Most people depend on a network of family, friends, therapists, or support groups, and refusing to reach out to this support network indicates that recovery could be fragile. Recovery is much more than abstinence; it is a new way of living. Fortunately, a strong support system can help you refrain from isolating yourself if you let it.
Another sign that recovery could be in jeopardy is the substitution of new unhealthy behaviors for your old ones. Some people in recovery jump into romantic relationships too quickly, while others may overeat or indulge in compulsive spending. This is a slippery slope toward denial and self-justification, making addiction relapse more likely.
Thinking that you well and truly have your addiction “licked” is dangerous. Recovery is something you practice every day, not something you do once and then you are done. Likewise, assuming that your recovery is doomed to fail (possibly because you have seen friends or family suffer addiction relapse) is equally counterproductive.
Do not allow yourself to only remember the “fun” things about being in active addiction. The bad things about addiction clearly outweigh the good, and that is why people die from it. Romanticizing an addictive past is counterproductive. This is not to say you should be ashamed and never talk about your addiction. However, you should never view it through rose-tinted glasses.
Building your support network is crucial, but it must be done carefully. Do not allow yourself to bring just anyone into your life. Likewise, it can be profoundly unhealthy to resume associating with people who were instrumental in your active addiction. If you cannot avoid an addict you used to associate with (a parent, for example), set clear boundaries and make sure your support network has your back when you must interact with that person.
Sometimes life throws huge challenges your way. You may lose a job, experience the death of a loved one, go through a natural disaster, or otherwise face a big challenge. Again, it is essential to keep your support network close, practice consistent self-care, and ask for help if you need it. You can make it through major life challenges with hard work, support, and deliberate commitment to making it through.
There is much truth in the AA saying, “You’re only as sick as the secrets you keep.” Lying has a way of snowballing out of control. When you get away with a tiny, non-hurtful lie, it is that much easier to see if you can get away with a bigger one. If you can lie about why you did not answer the phone or why you were late to a meeting with a friend, it becomes easier to lie about other behaviors, including addictive behaviors.
Ideally, you should build your recovery on a solid foundation of steady employment, a stable home, a purpose in life, and regular attendance at support meetings. Maybe you do not have all those elements, but you can still regularly practice healthy coping behaviors. You can work closely with your support system and even create a relapse prevention plan. Finally, you can avoid your personal risk factors and triggers to the best of your ability.
Addiction relapse happens, but it does not doom your long-term recovery to fail. Remove your access to substances, protect yourself from negative influences, and reach out for addiction treatment if you need to do so. You have worked hard and come a long way. Long-term recovery is absolutely possible after relapse, and your life is worth it. Contact us today if you need to talk.