Drug and alcohol addiction needs to be viewed as a chronic disease, one that requires a long-term recovery plan and a commitment to remain sober.
Creating a healthy environment by surrounding yourself with supportive friends, family, and therapists and engaging in positive activities is vital to staying sober and avoiding addiction relapse.
Warning Signs of a Possible Relapse
Here are a few warning signs of a potential addiction relapse. If a loved one is displaying any of these signs, try to remain positive and supportive:
- The desire to use alcohol or drugs recreationally. You may tell yourself you’ll only have one drink or one hit and then stop. However caving in even once will often lead to repeated use and drug dependency.
- Socializing with old friends who are still using drugs/alcohol. It’s normal to miss your old friends; however, surrounding yourself with people who are still drug or alcohol dependent is putting you in a negative environment. Developing new relationships with sober friends is important.
- Stopping positive behaviors. You might have developed some healthy habits such as working out at the gym, attending group therapy sessions and keeping a journal. Lately, you no longer express an interest and stop doing these positive behaviors.
- Mood changes and defensiveness. Mood swings and defensive attitude are warning signs. Keep yourself open to communication with close friends or family, or talk to a sponsor. If your loved one is acting defensive, avoid angry confrontations or blaming.
- Signs of withdrawal. A few signs of withdrawal include shakiness, anxiety, sweating, nausea, vomiting and irritability. If you suspect a loved one has started using drugs or alcohol again, gently ask him if there’s anything he’d like to talk about.
How to Prevent Drug and Alcohol Relapse
Being aware of a possible relapse and identifying triggers is the first step in relapse prevention.
Here are a few ways to prevent a relapse:
- Distraction. Cognitive behavioral therapy suggests using distractions to take your mind off of cravings. These include engaging in positive activities such as reading a book, watching a movie, doing a physical activity, or socializing with a sober friend.
- Maintaining a strong support network of friends, family and sponsors.
- Regular attendance of support groups, or one-on-one counseling sessions.
Why Addiction Relapse Should Not Be Seen as Failure
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 60 percent of recovering addicts experience one or more relapses. This demonstrates the difficulty of recovering from drug or alcohol dependency. It takes time for your brain to rewire itself and to no longer be stimulated by former triggers.
The longer you stay clean, the more time your brain has to heal and start to associate certain triggers with the reward of being sober, rather than the reward of drug or alcohol use.
While nobody wishes to relapse, there is a silver lining if you have learned something new about yourself:
Discover a new trigger that caused you to relapse. Perhaps walking down a certain street made you feel nostalgic, or a song playing on the radio revived old memories. You have now identified a new trigger and can take steps to avoid it.
Learn about the root cause of the failure. Underlying emotional or mental health issues may need to be addressed at this time.
The important thing is to pick yourself back up after a relapse (develop resiliency) and persevere along the path to recovery.