Whether you got out of rehab recently or have been clean for years, a relapse is possible. In fact, it is estimated that "more than 90 percent of those trying to remain abstinent have at least one relapse before they achieve lasting sobriety." Addiction is a serious, life-affecting issue that has many triggers. Even though you might think you have overcome your addiction, you can still find yourself in trouble when you least expect it. Fortunately, if you are aware of the signs of relapse and how you can protect yourself from falling back into a cycle of addiction, you don't have to worry. Here are five signs of an impending relapse paired with solutions that will help you keep living a clean life.
1. Changes in Feelings and Attitudes
Relapse isn't when you slip up and do a line or drink one too many drinks. Rather, relapse is built on the emotions that can eventually lead you back into addiction. Once you have completed your rehab program and are back out in the world, you may find yourself having unhealthy thoughts. You might think, "Popping a couple pills tonight will be okay. It is Friday night, after all. I'll just do it this one time." If you find yourself thinking anything of the sort, stop and think about how far you have come. Remind yourself that you just finished rehab and cannot fall back into this sort of thinking. Think about the time and money you spent on putting yourself through the program and the effort you have made to get better. Think about your family and friends and any other support systems you have. Think about all of your potential and how unhappy you were before rehab, when in the midst of addiction. As hard as it may be, make a conscious decision and say "no" to more drugs. You'll be glad you did.
2. Elevated Stress and Reactivation of Denial
Stress can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Whether your stress is due to the major change of starting a normal life over again when you get out of rehab or a build-up of little triggers over the years, relapse can occur if you overreact. Similarly, reactivation of denial can occur if you simply pretend that everything is okay. If you find yourself on edge or having regular mood swings, it may be time for a visit to your doctor. He or she can refer you to a psychiatrist, if you don't already have one, from whom you can receive mood stabilizers or sleeping pills to help you cope.
3. Changes in Behavior
Another telling sign of relapse is a change in behavior. If you find yourself avoiding certain situations or can feel yourself getting riled up and defensive in others, it is time to step back and take a look at why. Your friends might call you out for being in a bad mood. Again, you've got to examine your actions. Why are you making things awkward and unpleasant when they don't have to be? Put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to see the situation from their perspective. Objectivity can help you make changes that will keep you from acting out and eventually hitting relapse.
4. Social Breakdown
Beginning to feel like you never want to see your friends and family is a telltale sign of an impending relapse. Whether you keep backing out of social events and support group meetings or simply shut yourself up in your room in an attempt to be alone, you can't be happy. Fortunately, you can turn this around. Start by keeping a journal. If you have nothing to write about other than how sad or lonely you are, you'll start to see that it would be best to spend some time with others. Schedule in some time. Keep track of all the fun things you do and start taking pictures at events. Soon you'll see what fun it is to keep an active lifestyle.
5. Loss of Structure, Judgment, and Control
Whether you find you are never getting anything done, ignoring your health and hygiene, or making irrational choices, it is time to make some changes. It may help you to write down everything that needs to be done each day and the hours at which you will do these things. It is also a good idea to keep track of your spending. Keeping a schedule and organized lists can help you keep on track and on top of things so that you do not find yourself the victim of a relapse, spending your time and money on an addiction that is already so far behind you.
If you, a friend or family member is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, call our trainer helpline advisors at 1-800-928-9139. If you have already been through rehab and feel you are in danger of having a relapse, make sure you contact your sponsor, mentor, coach or support group.