The Early Warning Signs of Drug or Alcohol Relapse

While you can’t cancel out the possibility of drug or alcohol relapse, you can mitigate the risks. If you have a loved one in recovery, you can be prepared to recognize early warning signs of relapse and to ensure that they have the supportive resources necessary to face the triggers and other challenges ahead.

While it’s an attractive illusion, the expectation that someone is no longer an addict or alcoholic following treatment is a misconception. On the contrary, this very misunderstanding can contribute to the risk of relapse in recovery. What’s really necessary is for someone to continue the positive strategies they initiate in treatment—and to maintain systems of support and therapy.

Needless to say, the recovery journey is a challenging one. And relapse does happen. It helps for both addicts and their family members to be able to recognize the early warning signs of relapse. The hope for recovery persists as long as there is attention to the treatment possibilities.

Relapse is not an uncommon phenomenon in general, but there are ways to mitigate the risks and help to reroute relapse for people we care about. Let’s look at some of the signs that it’s time to refresh the map to lifelong recovery.

Considering the Early Warning Signs of Relapse

It may take only a moment for someone to justify using drugs or alcohol again if the inducement is powerful enough. The factors that influence relapse could be emotional or environmental or anything in between. Addiction specialists can help you to identify the triggers and warning signs that are likely for the addict or alcoholic in your life. But we can also identify some relapse warning signs that are common for many people:

  • Expressing concerns or doubts that they can maintain their sobriety
  • Missing therapy, recovery groups, or other regular activities that support sobriety
  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Expressing hopelessness or self-pity
  • Appearing more stressed out and having a harder time coping with stress
  • Withdrawing from social situations and activities
  • Changes in normal routines, appetite, sleep patterns, or level of personal hygiene
  • Spending time around people who use drugs or drink alcohol
  • Expressing ideas that reflect overconfidence or a minimization of the problems with substance use
  • Using substances other than the one that was originally the problem of addiction
  • Feeling particularly positive emotions and experiences

Yes, even pleasant experiences and feelings can inspire someone to want to feel even better with that drug or drink they used to enjoy. But don’t feel discouraged by the broad and intrusive potential for relapse. The people who are most prepared to progress in recovery and navigate the triggers and obstacles are those have a basis of comprehensive treatment strategies and support. And it’s never too late to tap into these resources if you haven’t already.

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What Should You Do If You Notice Signs of Relapse Risk?

Recovery from addiction is not about gaining control. In fact, it’s important to accept the fact that not everything can be within your control. But everything is manageable if you have the right tools, perspective, and support. It begins with professional support because experienced clinicians know what strategies really work to endure stress and triggers.

So, if you notice early warning signs that your loved one may be facing drug or alcohol relapse, it’s time to re-assess their system of available resources. If they have not already been involved in a comprehensive treatment program, it might be time to take a step back to reinforce their recovery strategies from all possible angles.

Even during a stay in comprehensive residential treatment, clinicians help clients to identify their personal triggers and the imminent risks that might lead to relapse. In an honest way, people look at their addictive patterns and practice healthier coping strategies and positive lifestyle habits. Because you can’t really cancel out the risks of relapse, the best thing you can do is thoroughly prepare to cope with the challenges that will arise.

It is true that managing relapse risk may mean avoiding certain places, people, and experiences that can trigger the desire to use again. But the longer someone moves forward, actively employing their strategies and support for recovery success, the stronger they become. On their own, they may struggle to maintain their confidence and grip on recovery progress. But with your support and the support of clinicians and peers also in recovery, an alcoholic or addict can always reach for help nearby. And their chances of lifelong success in recovery are amplified.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.