Recovery from a substance use disorder is a life-long process. As such, occasional relapse is not uncommon; an estimated 90% of people in recovery for substance misuse will, at some point, begin using again.
Although it isn’t always possible to intervene successfully, it is nonetheless important to recognize the signs of imminent relapse so that you can provide support if needed. In general, return-to-use signs become evident well before the consumption of drugs or alcohol. The clearest indications are personality changes and changes in their habits. To help prevent relapse, or address it early, it’s important to know the most typical relapse warning signs.
1. Decline in Interest
Recovery requires vigilance. Rehabilitation programs are often intensive; participants are required to attend multiple weekly therapy and counseling sessions to discuss intimate details of their journeys. Some experience a decline in enthusiasm that doesn’t have an identifiable cause. If you notice your loved one is attending sessions with indifference or starting to skip meetings, this could be a sign that recurrence might be on the horizon.
2. Heightened Stress Levels
It isn’t unusual for people in recovery to experience elevated stress outside of the recovery setting. Real-world situations can be highly stressful. People who once relied upon substances to manage stressful situations can sometimes struggle to maintain sobriety.
3. Denial Impulse
In the initial stages, the denial reactivation begins with the refusal to admit that anything is wrong, even when clearly exhibiting stress or frustration. Very often, a person experiencing the need to deny their struggles isn’t necessarily trying to be deceitful; they’re likely trying very hard to convince themselves they’re alright.
4. Reactivation of Withdrawal
While the detoxification process will have purged all intoxicating substances from the body, psychological withdrawal symptoms will sometimes reoccur. This phenomenon is known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include depression, anxiety, lack of sleep and poor memory. This constellation of symptoms can be very serious; they can reactivate the self-medication response. Dual diagnosis treatment is recommended for people struggling with post-acute withdrawal syndrome.
5. Changes in Behavior
If your loved one starts breaking their routine and becoming less vigilant about accomplishing necessary tasks, it might be a sign of relapse.
6. Social Avoidance
When people in recovery start to struggle, they frequently avoid the people closest to them. This behavior is often due to the fear of worrying or disappointing the people who are most wishing for their success.
7. Exhibiting Poor Judgement
Poor judgment can manifest in several ways. Sometimes, a person in recovery exhibits spontaneous, reckless behavior or suddenly makes unsound financial decisions. Other times, they might struggle to make decisions of any kind and fail to accomplish basic tasks.
8. Return of Enabling Friends and Acquaintances
One of the most challenging aspects of outpatient recovery is managing former acquaintanceships – particularly the ones with people who are struggling with unaddressed substance use disorders. When a person in recovery begins to reestablish relationships with the people who participated in their substance misuse, it is often a significant warning sign.
9. Irrational Expectations
This is often exhibited as a belief that they can occasionally go back to alcohol or drug use but control it. After a relatively long stretch of sobriety, it can be easy to forget how long and difficult the journey was.
10. Repeatedly Asking to Borrow Money
You might even notice money or items missing. This phenomenon is a strong indication of impending or already established recurrence.
We recognize the very real possibility that your loved one may return to use. Moreover, we realize that the loved ones often aren’t well-equipped to cope with the realities of relapse. At The Raleigh House, we are committed to providing dedicated support throughout our clients’ journeys.
We are proud to offer an extensive alumni network of people in recovery, families and friends. We also provide loved ones with therapeutic interventions and support their role in the recovery journey. In addition to family systems therapy, our support services include access to our alumni program and families app, where you can connect with people who share similar experiences.
If you have a loved one struggling with a substance use disorder, please contact the team at The Raleigh House today. We’re here to help.