Substance abuse habits are rarely overcome easily, and many addicts require several attempts before they successfully recover. If your friend or loved one has recently cleaned up, he or she isn’t entirely out of the woods.
Substance abuse problems are rarely caused by one sole influence, and the risk of relapse may increase in the face of certain triggers. Addiction can stem from any number of causes, and if your loved one has recently recovered, that makes you part of his or her support system.
Recovery from addiction is a difficult road, and it’s important to be able to identify anything that may trigger relapse or cause your loved one to fall back into dangerous habits.
5 Common Triggers For Substance Abuse Relapse
In the case of a loved one who’s deep into recovery, keep your eyes peeled for these five common triggers for substance abuse relapse:
1. Increased Isolation
Recovery necessitates support. Isolation is dangerous for most people, and this is especially true for addicts. If you notice your loved one starting to spend an inordinate amount of time alone, or actively detaching from social relationships, this should be a red flag that he or she needs support.
Feelings of isolation are a huge driving force behind drug or alcohol addiction. The substance offers the addict comfort and gratification that he or she deems missing from his or her life otherwise.
2. Failing To Keep Up With Programs
Recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous exist to provide support for recovering addicts, but the support provided doesn’t end with sobriety. Most recovered addicts continue to attend meetings long after they’ve been sober for quite some time. Some recovered addicts continue to attend for the rest of their lives in order to offer encouragement and guidance to currently struggling addicts.
Some individuals may see these meetings as a chore or no longer necessary once they’ve been sober for an extended period of time, but it’s helpful to recognize the importance of continued attendance. It can be especially difficult for addicts to return to support groups after they’ve relapsed. While feelings of guilt and shame may make attending these meetings after a relapse difficult, it’s important to remind your loved one that these groups are there for support and guidance – not judgment and criticism.
3. Bad Habits Re-Emerging
For some recovering addicts, the mere presence of a past acquaintance can be incredibly difficult to handle, and the memories of certain people, places and situations can bring up images of their life as an addict. If you notice your recovered loved one starting to spend time with people known to enable addiction, or if he or she returns to places associated with his or her dangerous past, it’s best to speak up and have a conversation about the importance of keeping the past in the past.
Social pressures can be especially challenging. A recovering addict may insist that one drink or a small dose of a drug of choice is harmless or something to simply take the edge off, but these situations rarely result in anything but relapse. Addicts should talk about their feelings, especially their temptations to use, and work through them with supportive friends and family members.
4. Extreme Emotions Manifesting
Drug and alcohol addiction can have a serious impact on the person’s mental and emotional stability, even after an extended period of sobriety. Difficult situations can be even more challenging, as these recovering individuals no longer have their substance of choice available as a coping mechanism.
If you notice a recently recovered loved one struggling to handle complex emotions or displaying uncharacteristic outbursts, overt defensiveness or other emotional displays, consider these as warning signs.
For many addicts, their substance of choice functioned as a security blanket: It was there when no one and nothing else was. It can be extremely difficult for them to adjust to life without an easy escape. Everyone deals with emotionally trying experiences, but addicts must relearn how to handle such situations without resorting to substance abuse.
5. Expecting Sobriety To Be The Panacea (Cure-All)
After recovery, it’s important to retain a healthy expectation of what life has to offer. Many addicts believe that sobriety is the only thing standing between them and happiness, while most sober people will tell you that there is, unfortunately, much more to worry about.
If your recently recovered friend or loved one seems disappointed that recovery hasn’t fixed all of his or her other problems, or that sobriety “isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” consider this as a major warning sign of a potential relapse.
Recently recovered addicts need to take time to focus on their personal well-being, while distancing themselves from dangerous behaviors and enablers. Along the same vein as unrealistic expectations, you should be wary if your recently recovered loved one starts to display an inordinately strong desire to pursue romantic endeavors. It’s not uncommon (nor is it healthy) to replace one addiction with another – such as sex and relationships.
Don’t Shy Away From Help!
If any of these warning signs rear their heads or if you notice any sudden atypical behavior, it’s vital that you take it seriously. It only takes one slip-up to return to addiction, so don’t be afraid to call out your recently recovered friend or loved one if he or she starts to display signs of relapse. Just be mindful to do so tactfully, and display your honest concern for his or her well-being.
Recovery is a long, continuous process that requires a healthy environment and support system. Every person is different, and every addiction has different triggers. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t shy away from addressing any warning signs. An awkward conversation is much easier than going through relapse.
Share Your Experience Here
Identifying the warning signs of a relapse is the first step to preventing one. If you or a loved one has relapsed after recovering from a substance abuse problem, what caused the relapse? Please share your observations or experience in the comment section below.