Relapse is often thought of in terms of a singular occurrence. Often, it is assumed that relapse happens when someone in recovery randomly experiences a craving that leads to substance or alcohol use. Unfortunately, relapses are rarely this simple.
A relapse will often occur over varying lengths of time. A person in recovery might first experience depression or stress and begin entertaining thoughts of substance use. This might happen over the course of several days or several weeks. The causes of a relapse depend not only on the experiences of your loved one, but also how they are equipped to deal with their challenges.
If you’re looking for warning signs your loved one has relapsed, remember that some of the signs listed below might also apply to someone who hasn’t physically relapsed with a drug.
Signs of Depression and Hopelesness
For many people with a substance use disorder, depression and addiction go hand in hand. Substance use is an incredibly destructive way to deal with depression, but it is one that people with addiction might turn to cope with feelings of hopelessness. Being able to recognize depression and thoughts of hopelessness can be the difference between relapse and recovery. Ask questions, be involved, support them with love and let them know that you are there if they need you.
Unhealthy Behaviors and Old Patterns
When in recovery, your loved one likely established a healthy routine that might have included attending meetings, meditating or exercising. If those constructive behaviors fall apart, it could signal a relapse. For example, if they start missing a bunch of meetings that they used to attend, this is a pretty good sign that they are not on the path they once were. It doesn’t mean they are relapsing but something to think about. It takes time to establish new patterns in our lives, and consistency is key. If your loved one isn’t adhering to a routine, they could be more susceptible to substance use.
Always Seem Stressed
Just like depression, stress is also closely linked with substance use. Stress is a response to adversity. The greater the adversity, the more difficult it is for anyone to cope with stress in healthy ways. Stress causes sleeplessness, digestive problems, headaches, depression and anxiety. If someone has conditioned themselves to deal with these symptoms of stress through substance use, they might believe that drugs or alcohol will help, even though substances make it more difficult to cope with stress in the long term.
Romanticizing Substance Use
If your loved one starts speaking fondly of substance use, it might indicate that they are either entertaining the idea of using again or justifying a relapse that has already happened. With time, a person suffering from a substance use disorder might slowly forget the negative consequences of their addiction and romanticize their experiences with drugs and alcohol.
Unhappy In Recovery
If your loved one becomes depressed or disillusioned with their own recovery, they might start believing that they don’t need the tools they’ve learned in recovery. This idea is sometimes accompanied by a belief that they can use some substances in moderation without becoming addicted.
Signs of Dishonesty
People with substance use disorder are often skilled in deception. Dishonesty is a hallmark of addiction; it is a tool people with addiction use to avoid accountability. If you’re looking for signs your loved one has relapsed, they might be dishonest with you, family members, counselors, sponsors or others in their support network.
Isolation from Others
People isolate themselves when they are depressed. Isolation then contributes to further depression. If your friend or family member is isolating themselves from the people in their life, particularly those that are encouraging them to remain sober, it could be a sign that they have relapsed or that they are on the path to a relapse.
If You’ve Noticed Signs Your Loved One Has Relapsed…
The situation is best dealt with using compassion, not judgment. You might be very angry or frustrated with your friend or family member. A person with a substance use disorder is more likely to respond positively to support, while anything they see as being accusatory could make matters worse.
If you need someone to help you navigate these waters, please call us today. We at San Diego Sober Living can help because we have been there. We are happy to help.