Whether you just started on the road to recovery or have garnered a substantive period of sobriety, the possibility of relapse is ever present. According to some studies, it is estimated that ninety percent of those in recovery will experience a relapse of some degree within the first four years of sobriety. Even though the risk of relapse reduces dramatically once an individual reaches five years of sobriety, the threat of backsliding back into using and addictive patterns and behaviors still exists. In order to be proactive in recovery one must recognize the warning signs that may indicate that a relapse may occur.
You Stop Following Your Recovery Plan
This is the most common pitfall for those in recovery in regards to relapse. The recovering addict stops going to twelve step meetings, working with a sponsor and failing to utilize their support systems. For some, building some successful clean time can breed overconfidence and with that overconfidence the recovering person can start to abandon their game plan. Going to twelve step meetings in particular can provide the recovering person with a reminder of where they have been, who they are and what ultimately is at stake if they don’t stay on the path.
Rekindling the Romance
Another attitude that can lead to relapse is the reminiscing or romanticizing of the days when drinking and using substances was prevalent. Many addicts had a period where drinking and/or drug taking had few consequences. As the periods of drinking and drug use increased, the fun that once was had was replaced by the consequences of substance use. If the “good times” that substance use are front and center in memory and not the consequences that it wrought, it is a strong indicator that a relapse can be imminent.
Acting As If You Still Were Using
For alcoholics it is called a “dry drunk”, or acting in ways that were prevalent when you were drinking even without the drink. In recovery the addict is undergoing changes in attitude and it is common to overreact and to take things in an extremely personal manner. Oftentimes there a low tolerance for frustration and the recovering person as a result can become irritated. It soon becomes all about “me me me” just as it was when the addict was still using and if those attitudes start surfacing again it can point to a relapse down the road.
Looking For Those Old Friends
Sometimes the recovering addict may contact their old friends who still use on the premise of checking in “just to see how they are doing”. What may start out as a benign contact can lead one back into those sets and settings that got them into trouble in the first place.
…Just One Time Wouldn’t Hurt…
Those who in recovery are fully aware of the consequences of substance use. Thoughts of using “just once” may provide someone in recovery a rationalization that maybe things weren’t that bad or they have changed and using substances again will provide a different outcome. Usually, if an addict starts using drugs and/or alcohol again they tend to pick up where they left off. It may not be that first time using—it may take weeks or months—but eventually the once recovering addict will be in the same place they were when they were active in drinking and/or drugging.
RELAPSE DOES NOT MEAN FAILURE
For those who do relapse, there are feelings of guilt and shame that go with failure. It is important to realize that relapse is not the ultimate in failure and if that attitude is allowed to remain it will keep the addict sick. Reach out to others for help and recommit to the recovery game plan including first entering into a rehab or medical detox and then attending twelve step meetings on a regular basis. Process the events and emotions that led to the relapse and use those moments as a learning opportunity to grow.