More than 20 million people in the U.S. need addiction treatment. Addiction impacts more than just the person with the substance abuse issue, and it can be scary for loved ones to observe a person’s journey. If your loved one recently entered recovery, it’s natural to want to make sure they are on the right track.
While their sobriety is not your responsibility, you may want to be aware of some of the common signs of relapse. That way, you can determine the next step you want to take to support them.
Some of the warning signs of relapse include:
1. Sudden Mood Changes
Entering recovery can be an exciting and overwhelming time. If your loved one recently got sober, they may have experienced a dramatic shift in their mood. After a period of active addiction, recovery allows a sense of hope to surface in people’s lives. But being in recovery doesn’t guarantee that they will always be in a positive mental state.
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Everyone experiences some variation in their day to day mood. And without substances, the human psyche returns to the ebb and flow of feelings throughout the day. But if your loved one has experienced a sudden shift toward fear, anger, depression, or anxiety, they may be struggling with a relapse.
2. Shift In Priorities
When people enter recovery, they may start hanging out with a new crowd. They may spend time with sober friends and attend recovery meetings. If your loved one suddenly stops their recovery routine, it could be a warning sign of relapse.
Canceling therapy appointments, skipping recovery groups, and isolating from sober friends are all potential warning signs that they are getting off track. You may want to mention that you have noticed a change, and offer an open ear for support.
3. Defensive Attitude
If your loved one responds to your inquiries or concern in a defensive manner, that may also serve as a sign they are struggling with substances again.
It’s very common for people to relapse and return to their drug of choice (or another substance). Relapse is not a part of all recovery stories, but it does happen frequently. The important thing is that your loved one is willing to get continued help with their recovery.
Living a sober life takes practice, and there are many communities that welcome people back from a relapse with dignity and respect. Addiction is a disease, and no one recovers perfectly. Treatment centers like The Bluffs offer aftercare programs and family support for this very reason.
4. Returning To Former Friends Or Hangouts
Many times, people get some sober time under their belt and begin feeling like they are on solid ground. They may desire to reconnect with old friends that they used to drink or use drugs with. Your friend or family member may say they miss those friends, and simply want to check in with them.
While the desire to reconnect is normal, it can be dangerous to return to old friends or places where they used to drink or use substances. The temptation to drink or use could still be there, and those environments can be a slippery slope that leads right back to where they came from.
That’s why staying connected to others in recovery is so important. Whether it is through outpatient therapy, SMART Recovery groups, or AA and NA meetings, it’s vital to have a place to connect with other sober people.
5. Glorifying The Past
Another sign of relapse is to minimize or glorify the past. This may take the form of your loved one saying, “I wasn’t really that bad,” or “My problem wasn’t alcohol, so I can probably drink safely now.” Your loved one may also say something like, “But I used to have so much fun, when I wasn’t getting into trouble.”
These statements minimize the reality of this person’s history of substance abuse. While it is true that some people only have an issue with a certain substance, other drugs can lead them into tempting and dangerous situations.
6. Financial Issues
If your loved one begins defaulting on bills or other financial responsibilities, this could also be a sign of relapse. They may come up short for rent, or ask to borrow money. If you notice that you’re missing cash, or there are valuables missing from your home, your loved one may be in the middle of a relapse.
The best thing to do is to get clear on your boundaries. Speak with your support system, and consider attending an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting. These support groups are for the friends, spouses, and family members of people who suffer from addiction.
Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings aim to connect people to a sense of self and personal safety, regardless of what their addicted loved one is doing. In this type of support group, you’ll hear that best thing you can do for your relapsed loved one is to take good care of yourself. When they are ready for help, you can be there for them in a healthy way that doesn’t put your well-being at risk.
How To Support Your Loved One After A Relapse
Just like addiction, relapses affect people in different ways. Your loved one may be able to reconnect with recovery by simply going back to AA or NA meetings. They may have had one or two instances of using or drinking, and possess an authentic desire to “get back on the wagon.” In these cases, offering a ride to a meeting or a therapy appointment is a great way to show support.
In more severe cases of relapse, your loved one may need to enter a treatment facility. If they returned to heavy drug or alcohol use, they may need detoxification services. Treatment centers like The Bluffs offer medical detox programs, as well as judgment-free treatment for those who have struggled with relapse. To show your support, you may want to suggest a treatment program or family therapy session.
Recovery is an uphill battle for many, and relapse is a common struggle. However, it does not have to be the end of the story. Many people who have relapsed go on to build successful lives in recovery.
To learn more about how to support a loved one who has relapsed, or for more information on The Bluffs rehab center, contact a treatment specialist today.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — AMERICA'S NEED FOR AND RECEIPT OF SUBSTANCE USE TREATMENT IN 2015