Relapse is said to occur far before the actual drug or alcohol use begins. Relapse is the process of decline in quality of recovery, prior to ever picking up a drink or drug. There are several indicators, or signs, that one is going to “relapse.” It is rare that a relapse is out-of-the-blue. Usually, a relapse happens over a period of time.
The 7 signs that you are headed for relapse can help you to avoid a relapse, or recognize when a loved one may be relapsing:
1. Not Going to Meetings
Not going to meetings is one of the most obvious, and strongest indicators that a relapse is imminent. Meeting attendance is a tell-tale sign that someone is either engaged in recovery, or disengaged in their recovery. The more meetings that are attended, the more opportunities the recovering alcoholic or addict has to be of service to others in recovery. The act of service, and reciprocating the same treatment you were given when you got into the program, is the way that we all stay sober. Some say that “90 in 90,” or 90 meetings in 90 days, is a good standard to follow when trying to get sober, or when just leaving drug and alcoholic addiction rehab. It may be one thing to miss a meeting or AA or NA function because of an emergency, or sickness. But, there really is no other excuse, besides a death in the family or other emergency, that would prevent someone from attending meetings.
2. Putting Off Step Work
The program of Alcoholics Anonymous is found in the “Big Book.” In the chapter named How it Works, the twelve steps and twelve traditions are outlined. If you are not currently working your steps, or have not already worked your steps, you are not in recovery. The entire program functions from the step work. You get sober through the step work. You stay sober through the step work. You help others stay sober through the step work. If you aren’t doing the step work, you are doing none of the above. You can go to meetings, and hang out with sober people, and read the “Big Book,” or other recovery-associated literature, but there is no combination of those things that can take the place of your working the steps. If you put-off your step work, you are putting-off your sobriety. One of the foundations of the program is giving back to others. If you never do your step work, or take forever to finish it, then the longer it will take you to be able to take someone else through the steps. And, what keeps you sober is giving back.
3. Not Praying or Meditating
Prayer and meditation are both cornerstones of the programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Most of us who have been in recovery for any substantial period of time will experience fluctuations between feeling a high level of spiritual connection, to feeling almost totally not-connected. I know when I am feeling less spiritually-connected, my prayer and meditation habits may have been lacking. Prayer and meditation anchor the recovering person in the will of their higher power, or God. Twelve-Step programs are not religious programs. They are spiritual programs. So, when using the term “God,” I am describing the God of your understanding. Meditation is a time for quiet reflection, and listening. Prayer is a time for communicating with your higher power. You need both to effectively connect to your higher power, or spiritual connection.
4. Hanging Around Old People, Places, & Things
If you are surrounding yourself with old people, places, and things, your chances for recovery are slim. It is not a guarantee that you will certainly relapse if you surround yourself with the old; but, it definitely decreases your chances of long-term recovery. While it can be tempting to surround yourself with familiar faces and old places, you are putting yourself in an unnecessary danger-zone. Most people say that you “have to change everything” to get, and stay, sober. I would agree with that assessment. You may lose some friends, but your real friends would not use around you or with you, if they are aware of what you have been through. On the flip-side, a “geographical cure” is not the answer. If you think just by moving across the country or world, you can change the fact that you are an alcoholic or addict, you are red wrong. There are drugs and alcohol everywhere! If you are not engaged in a program of recovery, then it does not matter where you live.
5. Not Having a Sponsor OR Not Communicating With Your Sponsor
Sponsorship is an integral component of AA, and NA. If you don’t have a sponsor, or stay in regular contact with your sponsor, you could be in trouble, and very close to a relapse. If you never get a sponsor, then it’s not likely that you will be working your steps, in the near future, at least. And, the faster you work your steps, the faster you can take someone else through the steps. Another downside to not having or talking to your sponsor is not receiving the guidance and suggestions that you need from someone who you respect in the program. While you may have other important, or supportive friends or family members, a sponsor can fill a different role. A sponsor can help you to see your life through the program, and hopefully, act accordingly.
6. Not Taking Care of Yourself
If you are preoccupied with using drugs and alcohol, your typical habits regarding self-care will likely slip by the wayside. Our self-worth and self-esteem is tied to sobriety because sobriety and recovery is a self-esteem-building lifestyle. If we are lacking in our program and not doing the things we need to do in that area, we may not be feeling very good about ourselves. Or, maybe we just don’t care.