Many people mistakenly think of a relapse as a singular occurrence. They might assume it happens when someone in recovery randomly experiences a craving that leads to substance or alcohol use. Relapses are rarely this simple.
A relapse can unfold 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 is on the verge of relapsing.
You Sense Depression, Negativity and Hopelessness
For many people with a substance use disorder, depression and addiction are two sides of the same coin. Substance use is an incredibly destructive way to deal with depression, but it is one that people with addiction might turn to when they experience feelings of hopelessness. Your loved one needs support during bouts of depression.
Healthy Behaviors Are Giving Way to 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. 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.
Your Loved One’s Stress Levels Have Increased
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.
They are Idealizing 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.
They Seem Disillusioned with 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.
You Detect 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.
They Seem Isolated 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.
They Demonstrate Outward Signs of Substance or Alcohol Use
Your loved one’s substance use may be physically apparent. The signs of substance use vary depending on the drug being used, but could include…
- Slurred speech,
- Impaired judgment,
- The smell of alcohol on the breath,
- Memory loss,
- Falling, and
- Unusual or erratic behavior.
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.
Having someone in your life who struggles with addiction is difficult. Just like your loved one, you might also benefit from support. Many resources are available here in Austin, including Al-Anon, a 12-step program for those with loved ones struggling with substance use disorders.
Contact Sober Austin to Find Help
Sober Austin offers resources for anyone looking to connect with interventionists, treatment centers and programs, and addiction counselors and therapists. You can contact Sober Austin anytime by calling 512-981-6572 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.