Relapse can be a scary event for those who have faced addiction. It doesn’t just impact the drug- or alcohol-addicted person; it affects parents, siblings, children, spouses, friends, and co-workers. While relapse can feel like a failure, though challenging, it is a normal part of the recovery process. Knowing the warning signs of relapse can lead to swifter action and a more immediate and lasting response and a better recovery outcome for your loved one.
Know The Signs Of Drug Or Alcohol Relapse
If you have watched a loved one survive an addiction to drugs or alcohol, signs of a relapse can stir a complex array of emotions. It is normal to feel angry, anxious, and even depressed, though it is equally important to refrain from lashing out at your loved one or making strong accusatory statements, despite any frustration you might be experiencing.
One of the best ways to help a loved one who has previously battled an addiction is to remain open and available for them. If you are questioning whether they’ve relapsed on a regular basis, it can cause undo stress and may deter them from turning to you for help. One way to begin a conversation with someone you suspect may be on the verge of relapse, or who has relapsed is to ask them about stresses in their lives. Approach the conversation on the basis of understanding that recovery is a difficult process. This approach will leave room for your loved one to open up about any potential setbacks to their recovery.
Signs of drug or alcohol relapse include changes in attitude or a shift in behavior. In some cases, you might see more blame-oriented conversation. A person who has relapsed will typically fall into old thought and behavioral patterns quickly, so be on the look out for those old familiar issues including missing important events, a lack of interest in hobbies or social time with friends and family, financial or work-related struggles, and unexplained changes in sleep patterns or appetite.
Signs Drug or Alcohol Relapse Has Occurred Include:
- Changes in behaviors
- Lack of interest in social events
- Lack of interest in hobbies
- Missing work
- Financial struggles
- Unexplained changes in sleep patterns
- Unexplained changes in appetite
How To Get Help After A Relapse
Remember, though it feels like your loved one has chosen to relapse, addiction is a disease. Those struggling with addiction may feel extreme frustration, anxiety, and depression following a relapse. Helping your loved one understand that relapse is not the conclusion to their recovery journey, but rather another stepping stone forward is hugely beneficial for the recovering individual. Relapse is normal and recovery from relapse is equally normal.
The good news is that your loved one has already gone through the program; they know what to expect and are on better footing than they were prior to their initial recovery. Remind them that relapse is a normal part of recovery and that sometimes people relapse multiple times on their way to a long-term recovery. While a return to rehab or treatment might feel redundant for someone who has just relapsed, it can invigorate the desire for change and promote new avenues or approaches to recovery with improved results. Often those who have experienced a relapse while in recovery say they came back feeling more committed to their recovery following the experience.
This first step involving communicating your support of your loved one is critical. You never want the person to feel like you’re going behind their back. Once you have talked with your loved one and discovered that relapse has occurred, talk with them about reaching out for professional support. If they give you excuses as to why it won’t work this time, remind them that it did help them previously and that additional complementary therapies may be employed to further improve their long-term recovery.
Anyone who has spent time with someone in recovery is aware of the reasons someone has chosen to enter drug or alcohol rehabilitation. For someone who has relapsed, they may need to be reminded of these goals, including preservation of their health, custody of their children, and more.
Connect them with a treatment support person who can facilitate a re-entry into treatment or recommend an appropriate course of action. Make promises you can keep about your commitment to helping them through the relapse. And reach out to other support people, including family, friends, and co-workers asking for their support.
Now is the time to address and assess any lingering issues that might contribute to future relapses.
Why Do People Relapse?
While there is no single answer to the question of why people relapse, there are some common issues that result in relapse. Someone who went from treatment directly into a home environment that promoted drug use or included drug exposure, or where stress is a large factor may feel overwhelmed by the sudden external pressures and resort to using again. Many programs require meetings or ongoing counseling. If this step was skipped, it can also result in higher rates of relapse. Ongoing meetings promote the broadening of a social network of other individuals committed to recovery. If your loved one skipped this step, they might have felt isolated from former friends or family who abused drugs. A return to spending time with those who use is a huge red flag in recovery.
Was the individual committed to their recovery in the first place? Sometimes an individual will enter rehab half-committed to achieving recovery. This thinking will nearly always result in relapse as it often includes the belief that once in recovery, they will be in better control of their drug use.
Was a co-occurring mental disorder left undiagnosed? Did your loved one previously suffer from anxiety or depression or some other disease or illness that might be perpetuating use of drugs or alcohol?
Relapse is a time to assess what needs were met in recovery and where treatment or transitioning out of treatment may have fallen short. And the earlier you intervene, the better the overall chance of recovery for your loved one.
If You Or A Loved One Has Relapsed, Help Is Near
DrugRehab.org is an online resource connecting you with the professional support and evidence-based care you need and deserve. Contact us today and take that next step forward in your recovery journey.