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Warning Signs of Relapse

When we’ve successfully gotten sober and are in recovery, we’d like to think we’re in the clear and that we won’t fall back into old patterns. We’re so committed to our sobriety that we think we would never do anything to jeopardize it. We don’t want to threaten the newfound peace and serenity we’ve finally achieved in our lives. Relapse is a common obstacle so many of us face in recovery. In order for us to help ourselves prevent relapse, it’s very important to understand some of the warning signs. We can be on the lookout for them, both in ourselves and in our loved ones, and we can get help if we see any of them beginning to emerge.

One of the clearest warning signs of an impending relapse is a noticeable shift in our perspective. For awhile we’ve been very clear on our sobriety. We know we can’t ever use our drug of choice again without risking our ability to stay sober. Sometimes if we’re headed towards relapse, we start thinking differently. We start thinking that one or two times of drug use will be fine, that we’ll be able to manage, that we won’t allow it to continue. We try to convince ourselves that maybe we’re not true addicts after all, that we can use in moderation, or on special occasions, or only on weekends. We start romanticizing our drug use and seeing it favorably rather than remembering all of the pain it caused. We might reminisce about all of the positive experiences we had when we were high. We tell ourselves that our drug of choice helped us relax, or be more creative. We tell ourselves that we did some of our best work when we were high, that it made us happy and helped us accomplish goals. We tell ourselves that it helped us to think more clearly and get more done. We tell ourselves that our drug use helped us be more social and open with people, that it helped us conquer our social anxiety and be more comfortable within ourselves and with other people. We felt more like ourselves when we were high, and we miss that feeling. We miss how carefree, light and nonchalant we felt.

We might start trying to justify our past behavior by saying it wasn’t our drug use that was hurting us and the people around us – it was our depression, or our anger, or that toxic relationship, or some difficult life circumstance we were going through. We don’t want to remember how destructive our addiction has been in our lives, so we deflect and transfer the pain it caused onto other factors, blaming anything or anyone else we can rather than remembering the real culprit – our addiction. We start to be dishonest with ourselves again, avoiding the truth and living in denial. We might start lying to loved ones again about how we feel, or about our intentions to start using again. We might pretend everything is fine so that no one suspects how strongly we’re considering going back.

It’s so important to be mindful of our thought patterns and emotional patterns when it comes to our sobriety and potential for relapse. When we’re feeling ourselves slipping, we might start to feel our self-destructive, self-hating thoughts returning. We might start to have the same thought patterns of inadequacy and unworthiness and feel down on ourselves all over again, after working to rebuild our self-esteem. We might feel like we’re back at square one, feeling all of the same insecurities, self-doubt and self-hate we felt when we were using. We might stop keeping up with all of the new healthy coping skills we’ve learned. We might start neglecting self-care and stop taking care of ourselves altogether. We might stop going to therapy sessions or support group meetings. If we’re in danger of relapsing, our emotions can be a good predictor of how we will handle things. It might feel like our emotions are all over the place and out of our control. We might experience drastic mood swings, heightened anxiety, overwhelming stress, and symptoms of a depression returning. We’re so used to using our drug of choice to escape our very painful feelings, and they can absolutely be a trigger for us to start using again.

There are often behavioral warning signs of relapse. We might start engaging in the same risky and unhealthy behaviors we once did. We might start acting in erratic ways that seem problematic and worrisome to the people who know us. We might isolate ourselves, distance ourselves from people, or cut off important relationships altogether. We might return to old habits – we might start back up with the toxic relationship we worked so hard to leave behind, or start smoking cigarettes after working so hard to quit. For many of us, our addictive relationships and habits, the things we have such a hard time detaching from, such as the partner we can’t seem to let go of, or smoking cigarettes, function like gateway drugs to our other addictions. When we see that partner, or smoke a cigarette, it can very easily lead to starting back up with our drugs of choice. Our sobriety is fragile, and even things that we think are small or harmless can threaten everything we’ve worked so hard for. When we’re headed for relapse, we might start doing compulsive and even dangerous things, putting ourselves and others in harm’s way. Sometimes it is the pain of these destructive choices that we’re trying to escape by returning to our drug use.

At The Guest House Ocala, we have personal recovery experience and over 12 years in the recovery industry. We have helped countless people recover, and we’re here to help you too. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.