Early Warning Signs of Relapse and High-Risk Situations That Lead to Relapse
If you are recovering from substance use disorder, then you understand exactly how difficult maintaining sobriety can be. Many people in recovery report an on-going struggle between relapsing and using their substance of choice ‘just one more time’ and staying on the road to recovery. Relapse during recovery is common and does not mean that recovery has failed.  There are warning signs and high-risk situations that can lead to relapse, which every person in recovery should be familiar with. Awareness of the warning signs and avoiding high-risk situations can reduce the chances and severity of relapse and keep you on the road to recovery.
The Relapse Process
Relapse is a process. The three-step process can happen over time, or very quickly depending on the person.
1. Emotional Relapse
Typically, during an emotional relapse, you have not yet decided to use, but you are experiencing emotions that will lead to using. These are different for everyone but may include:
2. Mental Relapse
During the mental relapse phase, you may have had a thought about your drug of choice. You have probably wondered if it could help relieve some of the negative emotions you are experiencing. You may also begin to think that you can control yourself and that you can have just one drink or one hit, and that’s it. And you may also begin romanticizing your past use by thinking about the fun times you had, or how good it made you feel. This is an especially dangerous phase. Once you begin thinking this way, it is not long before you are able to talk yourself into using it again.
3. Physical Relapse
Physical relapse is actually using your drug of choice again. When you relapse, you may feel shame or guilt. But hope is not lost! Even though relapse is common for many people, you can achieve sobriety again. It is important to reach out to someone you trust who can help you get back into recovery.
Early Warning Signs of Relapse
If you or a loved one is in recovery, familiarizing yourself with the warning signs of relapse can help to prevent a dangerous relapse. The warning signs follow the relapse process above and lead directly to a relapse. Below is a list of the warning signs to watch for:
A Change in Behavior
Someone in the emotional or mental phase of relapse may begin withdrawing from their support groups, quit pursuing their newfound sober hobbies, or begin to have mood swings. They may also quit the healthy habits and routines they created during recovery.
In the mental phase of relapse, a person may begin to think that you didn’t ‘really’ have an addiction, or that you can control it now. But, addiction is a chronic disease and never goes away. It is important to remember that you will not ever be able to control your substance use.
Loss of Options and Control
Someone in the mental relapse phase may begin to limit their options that support recovery which makes it easier to justify a relapse. For instance, you may stop going to meetings, talking to your therapist, or quit taking your medications.
High-Risk Situations that Lead to Relapse
If you begin the relapse process, you may also begin to put yourself into high-risk situations that lead to relapse. These situations include:
- Feelings of anxiety and depression
Many people with substance abuse disorder were covering up feelings of anxiety and depression. If these feelings persist, speak with a professional who can help.
- Physical Discomfort
Feeling overworked or exhausted from work or life obligations is a common risk factor for many people. It’s important to ask for help and remember to take breaks as needed.
- Spending time with people who you used with
- Being in places where you used to use
- Not having people to support and encourage you
This can be especially hard if your entire social network was made up of people who also abuse substances. When you begin recovery, your social network may be small, and you might miss some of your old friends. Be sure to speak with your therapist about any of these feelings so that you can learn how to work through them.
Knowing the Warning Signs of Relapse and Preventing It
The key to avoiding relapse is acknowledging your addiction, surrounding yourself with support, and being aware of your risk factors. Addiction is a chronic disease, and you cannot overcome it alone. By seeking help and support through an addiction rehab facility, you will learn the tools you need to begin recovery and maintain sobriety. You will also have a network of people who are able to recognize the warning signs and who can help you course-correct before you’ve gone too far.
If you are struggling with addiction or maintaining your sobriety, contact Clear Life recovery today. Our experienced and compassionate team are ready to support you through this journey.