5 Warning Signs That You’re Heading for Relapse
Relapse is an often-misunderstood part of the addiction cycle. A substance use disorder (SUD) is a disease that can rear its ugly head throughout someone’s life: as such, we have to recognize warning signs of relapse, and respect the person suffering from those symptoms, the same way we would for flare-ups of any other chronic diseases.
Patients come through our Chronic Relapse Program here at Extra Mile Recovery when they’ve been through other programming and relapsed before: this is a specialized program, based on deep knowledge of the steps that lead to relapse. Below, we’ll share some of those more common signs of relapse so you can stay sober.
1: New Stress or Challenges
We all face significant stress in different ways throughout our lives. Loss and grief can force us to spend more time processing new emotions than keeping up with daily life. Even positive events, such as getting a new job, can cause stress simply because they’re new responsibilities and changes to our routines — after all, stable routines can be key to maintaining sobriety.
Stressful times might make you idealize having a beer or taking drugs “to take the edge off.” It can be hard to tell yourself this in the moment, but that approach to handling stress will do more harm than good. If your coping techniques are struggling to keep up, reach out to people in your life who know what you’re going through: with your tools and outside help, you’ll get through it.
2: Deprioritizing Recovery Work
A lot of the tools and techniques we teach in rehab aren’t just for tough times, they’re for “maintenance”. When your daily life gets especially busy or stressful, you might deprioritize things like mindfulness activities or checking in with a sponsor — things that, in the moment, don’t seem as important as keeping your boss or family happy.
Removing recovery activities from your routine is not healthy. If people don’t brush their teeth, then their oral health starts to rot away. The same goes for your sobriety — it requires daily maintenance for you to keep healthy thinking and habits. Even small, daily exercises can play a huge role in keeping you happy, healthy, and calm through the stress: don’t push them away!
3: Substituting New Things for Your Addiction
You’ve kicked drinking or drugs, which is an incredibly difficult task — one you should be proud of. One technique to stay away from your substance of choice is to find a new way to occupy that time. For many people, this can take the form of a new hobby like exercise or art. And if it’s not perfectly healthy, that’s okay — you’ve worked hard, and it’s better than your substance abuse. Right?
Well, not exactly: you might just substitute one addiction with another. If you give up drinking only to become unable to pull yourself away from video games, or unhealthy eating habits, or gambling, or even exercise, that isn’t a solution. Use the tools you learned in rehab and focus on healthy alternatives, in moderation, so that one addiction isn’t replaced with another.
4: “Rewarding” Yourself
Again, you’re proud of yourself for your work in rehab and in recovery. You’re hitting milestone after milestone in your sobriety, and that’s worth commemorating and celebrating. It’s tempting to think that this is as good a time as any to “reward” yourself for your dedication — even when you know that the reward you have in mind could undo all that work.
Celebrating a year of sobriety by having a drink can be like celebrating a promotion at work by lighting your office on fire. Instead of temping yourself with a dangerous “reward” or “break”, plan ahead: choose a reward for your milestones that won’t derail you from your sobriety journey. And if you feel those temptations getting worse, talk to your support network to celebrate with others.
5: Unhealthy Social Habits
Social habits can put you at a higher risk for relapse. One of the most common and dangerous: self-isolating. Sobriety can be inherently lonely sometimes, as it can be hard to have people who understand your situation available at all times. Another concerning social habit is falling back in with friends or family that encourage substance use.
If you find yourself lonely, or hanging out with the wrong crowds, look for someone who can support you. Call an Extra Mile alum, a sponsor, or another trusted friend or family member. Distract yourself with healthy coping tools or hobbies until someone is available for you. Hold out for someone who has your best interests at heart: they can help keep your life on track with a single conversation.
Extra Mile Recovery Helps You Avoid Relapse — Or Overcome It
Even when relapse seems imminent, it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Recognizing signs that you might relapse can help you stay ahead of your worst impulses and stay clean. At Extra Mile Recovery, we use a holistic approach to rehab that helps you understand yourself and how to prevent relapse — and if the worst happens, if you relapse and it feels like all your hard work was for nothing, our Chronic Relapse Program can help you use the tools you already have to get back on track.
Extra Mile Recovery is an all-male inpatient addiction treatment center located in the lovely, quiet forests of Mantachie, MS, where we offer a drug and alcohol rehab program that’s tailored to each person’s unique, individual circumstances. We’re always available to answer your questions: if you or a loved one are struggling, give us a call to learn more about how we can help you break free from addiction, once and for all.