Getting sober and committing to a life free of drugs, alcohol and all other mood altering substances comes with many different challenges. Relapse is a harsh reality that many people going through recovery will face. The best way that you could help your loved one is to be mindful of the different warning signs that may arise when your loved once is nearing a relapse or has recently gone through a relapse. Being aware of the signs is key to ensuring that your loved one can receive assistance during this difficult time. Some of the signs that someone is heading towards a relapse are subtle, while some of the signs can easily be missed.
Typically, a relapse happens mentally before the person actually gets to the point of picking up their substance of choice. The mental relapse can happen when a person begins to think about and glorify some of their past habits or goes back to spending time with some of their old friends, ultimately thinking about the positives from their time spent doing drugs and forgetting the pain and turmoil that their substance use had caused. Following the internal struggle of a mental relapse comes the physical relapse.
The physical relapse is what we think of most when we hear the term “relapse”. A physical relapse is when the person consumes a substance, ultimately breaking their sobriety. Once the relapse happens a person can quickly fall back into old, dangerous habits and put their own lives at risk.
There are behaviors to watch out for that may be an indicator that your loved one is heading towards or has reached a relapse:
Changes in the persons behavior
Depressed mood, impulsive behavior, easily agitated, forgetfulness, becoming defiant, sudden mood swings
Changes in appearance
When abusing a substance, a persons physical appearance as well as their living environment becomes a secondary priority.
Asking to borrow money or taking items that do not belong to them
Financial problems or irresponsible financial planning can be a sign of relapse because people often prioritize purchasing their substance over purchasing what is necessary for their daily living.
Missing treatment days, therapy appointments and/or support meetings
Distancing yourself from your support system and those who are holding you accountable is a common behavior that helps the person avoid conversations surrounding their substance use.
Reconnecting with old friends or contacts
Participating in old habits
This could range from lying, to not attending work and/or school, coming home at late hours or not coming home at all, staying awake or sleeping for long periods of time.
These key behaviors are important to watch out for when you are questioning if your loved one is heading towards or has reached a substance relapse. As much as it is important to be aware of these relapse signs, it is also important to know that help is here and recovery is possible.