As a close family member or friend, you may have experienced a gut feeling, an innate sense that your loved one has relapsed back to substance use. Chances are you have been closely engaged in this person’s treatment and recovery process and therefore have a special intuition about the signs of relapse. For most, however, a loved one’s relapse may have completely blindsided you.
Individuals in recovery may go to great lengths to hide an impending relapse. For this reason it is helpful to know the signs of a relapse in the making, allowing you to be proactive in getting a loved one the support they need. However, when the individual has already succumbed to relapse, the sooner that intervention occurs, the sooner sobriety can be reclaimed and the better the outcome. In essence, being aware of the signs of relapse in a loved one, followed up with your love and support, can help prevent a potentially more serious outcome.
8 Signs of a Relapse
You may suspect that someone close to you has returned to substance use. And while challenges of giving up alcohol may differ from the journey of overcoming hydrocodone withdrawal, there are some common behaviors that could indicate a relapse. For instance, after a period of stability during which he or she has established new healthy routines, they suddenly seem to have reverted back to old habits. This can be a sign of relapse, along with several other telltale signs. Relapse in a loved one is always painful to witness, but knowledge is key to guiding them back towards a recommitment to sobriety. Get to know the signs of a relapse, such as:
- Neglecting responsibilities. Substance use may have retaken center stage in their life. This can result in the individual neglecting their personal obligations, such as work-related or family commitments.
- Changes in mood or attitude. Once you have become accustomed to your loved one thriving in recovery you may notice a sudden change in their demeanor or attitude, such as increased moodiness, irritability, or negativity. This could be an indication that they have relapsed.
- Finding substances. You might come across the substance or related paraphernalia in their immediate possession, such as in their living space or car, suggesting a relapse has occurred.
- Stops going to meetings. A common sign of relapse is neglecting the usual recovery meetings that had become intrinsic to their recovery efforts. When meetings or a sponsor are avoided it is often a sign of relapse or impending relapse.
- Becoming defensive. If you begin to suspect your loved one is wavering and thus inquire about how they are doing, they may respond defensively. They may even become angry or verbally abusive, which could be signs of a relapse.
- Exhibits withdrawal symptoms. One of the most obvious signs of your loved one’s relapse is the return of withdrawal symptoms, such as hangovers, nausea, hand tremors, sweating, anxiety, or sleep disturbances.
- Financial problems. A loved one may have relapsed if they seem to suddenly be in financial trouble, especially after a period of stability. Money problems arise due to funding the substance use or as a result of being terminated from a job.
- Hanging out with former crowd. In rehabilitation your loved one had likely stopped interacting with former acquaintances associated with substance use. If they have returned to socializing with these individuals it may indicate a relapse.
What to do When a Loved One Has Relapsed
When a loved one has relapsed it can leave you feeling very helpless. Regardless of how this setback affects you emotionally, it is important to let them know you still support their recovery. Try to guide them back toward sobriety with the following actions:
- Remind them that they managed to discontinue the substance use before and they can do so again. Try to cloak any overt signs of disappointment, as hard as it may be, and be a positive influence for your loved one. Do not give up on them if they happened to succumb to a relapse. Instead, emphasize the success in recovery they have already experienced, and encourage them to recommit to sobriety.
- Offer helpful suggestions to help them return to their recovery. If they have relapsed they may be feeling hopeless and lacking direction. Suggest that they attend a meeting where they can obtain peer support. If they have a sponsor, it would be good for your loved one to make contact. Outpatient psychotherapy would also be an excellent step in reclaiming a foothold in recovery, as there may be emotional components driving the relapse.
- If the relapse was stoked by isolation or loneliness, offer to spend more time with the loved one. Suggest they look into some sober activities or groups where they can form a broader support network. Also, suggest they consider participating in volunteer work for a local charity, as these settings can also provide companionship while building up self-esteem and confidence. Above all, let them know you are always available to talk.
While feeling dismayed is a natural emotion in the aftermath of a loved one’s relapse, realize that relapse is a common occurrence on the recovery continuum. The earlier that you become aware of the relapse, the sooner you can guide your loved one toward their support sources, or back into treatment if needed. While unfortunate, a relapse can actually result in renewed enthusiasm for committing to a sober lifestyle.
Ashley Addiction Treatment believes that connection is vital to a successful recovery, with treatment options focused on holistic, integrated, and compassionate care. Ashley utilizes a variety of treatment modalities to support the healing process. If you would like to speak to someone about our care options, please reach out to us today at 800-799-4673.