No matter how committed an individual is to maintaining their sobriety, or how long they have been in recovery, the risk of relapse is always present. Relapsing is not an ultimate failure, but rather a setback to be overcome.
While relapse is not the end of the recovery journey, it’s something that we need to account for. Having a contingency plan to deal with triggers needs to be part of the treatment plan. If you or someone you love is showing signs that their sobriety is in danger, it’s important to act quickly.
What should you keep an eye out for to help individuals stay on their road to recovery?
What is relapse?
Substance Use Disorder (SUD) that results in dependency or addiction is a chronic, and frequently relapsing, condition. Individuals may find themselves vulnerable to resuming their substance use at any given point along the recovery journey. Consuming substances after a period of sustained abstinence is referred to as a relapse.
Relapse is not so much an isolated event, it’s more about slowly losing the motivation to remain sober. This is an important distinction to make, since the early signs of a potential relapse may appear weeks before the actual event.
Some of the most common causes of relapse include:
- Lack of an adequate support system
- Exposure to triggers
- High stress levels
- Boredom or loneliness
- Negative life events
What are the signs of relapse in addiction recovery?
Having a basic awareness of the warning signs of relapse can allow the individual to take proactive steps to prevent it. Signs of relapse include:
- Quitting the program: Whether it is due to excessive confidence or lower commitment levels, an individual in danger of relapse may stop attending recovery meetings or communicating with their sponsor. These are trusted sources of support, as well as accountability. Whenever individuals start to pull away it can mean that they are in danger of relapsing.
- Abandoning new healthy habits: After establishing healthy lifestyle habits in recovery, slipping back into old routines may signal a decreasing interest in sustaining recovery. Neglecting proper nutrition, discontinuing fitness routines or not getting adequate sleep are concerning signs.
- Neglecting obligations: A central theme in recovery is making amends and recommitting to loved ones. If a new and consistent tendency emerges to avoid daily responsibilities or commitments, it may be a sign of impending relapse.
- Withdrawing socially: Avoiding contact with friends or family members may also indicate a desire to engage in substance use while under the radar. Isolation may also be a sign of depression, which is another risk factor for relapse.
- Increasing signs of poor mental health: If there is an untreated co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety, it can set the stage for relapse. This is because the individual may revert to self-medicating the symptoms of the mental health issue with a substance.
- Resuming friendships with those who use substances: While in recovery, it is necessary to walk away from unhealthy friendships that are not supportive of sobriety. If the individual reconnects with those former friends, exposure to substances will increase the risk of relapse.
How can I take action to avoid relapse?
Avoiding the people or situations that could increase the risk of relapse is of vital importance. If you notice the warning signs of relapse, consider these actions that can help you avoid relapsing:
- Double up on recovery meetings
- Revise or refine your relapse prevention plan
- Consider Sober Living facilities
- Volunteer at meetings or in the local community
- Practice self-care to reduce stress levels
- Renew your commitment to outpatient therapy and support groups
- Re-establish healthy daily habits
Awareness and vigilance will provide the insights needed to protect your recovery. If you notice the warning signs of relapse, do not hesitate to reach out to your sober support network for help.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call 866-313-6307.