Recovery is a lifelong process. It is not something that, once achieved, means that your loved one has been cured for life. Recovery needs to be tended, much like a garden. If they neglect the garden, the plants will wither, and they will have to dig everything up and start all over again. The same applies to a relapse in their recovery. If they start neglecting the things they need to be doing to have a successful recovery, they will end up having to start all over again. If you make yourself aware of some of the signs of a possible relapse, you can better help your loved one in recovery.
They Stop Doing Their Aftercare
While successful completion of a rehab program is the first major step on the road to recovery, people in recovery are usually given an aftercare plan upon leaving the program. Aftercare can entail many different things, from a diet plan to weekly attendance to a 12 step program. Whatever it is they are encouraged to do to maintain their sobriety, if you start to see them slipping in their maintenance or stopping it all together, this can be an indication that a relapse might be imminent.
Going Back to Old Habits
Those in recovery are encouraged to stay away from people and habits that they used to have during their addiction. The reasoning behind this is that if you are still in the same routine, then you are more likely to continue using because the memories will still be there. Do you see your loved one looking up old friends with which they shared an addiction? Alternatively, are they thinking they can go hang out at their usual happy hour spot and just not have a drink? Then the chances are that they might be putting themselves in the proper mindset for a relapse and you should consider stepping in and bringing it to their attention.
New Compulsive Behaviors
Substance abuse is a compulsive behavior itself, so when you take that compulsion away, new compulsions or addictions can arise to fill the void. People that have quit smoking tend to channel that into chewing gum to occupy their mouth with a task that would have otherwise been occupied by smoking. While most would consider chewing gum a victimless crime, there are more dangerous compulsive behaviors to be on the lookout. Those obsessed with food and cooking could be at risk for overeating. Playing games, including cards, could lead to a gambling addiction. Even becoming overly obsessed with fitness and losing weight could signal an eating disorder. Helping your loved one channel this compulsive energy into healthy things can assist in leading them away from a relapse.
Talking About Old Times
People that suffer from addiction never used because they hated it. If you ask anyone in recovery, they will tell you the same thing; they enjoyed their addiction. Part of the process of recovery is distancing themselves from those thoughts and replacing them with thoughts of how it hurt themselves and others. If your loved one starts talking about the good old days of their addiction in an almost wistful manner, that could be a major red flag that they might be on track for a relapse.
One of the signs of addiction is also the same sign that a relapse might be about to occur. With addiction, the defensiveness can come about when you accuse them of being an addict, directly. When a relapse is on the horizon, they can start getting defensive about common, everyday things, as this helps them think they are hiding their addiction. It is important to bring their defensiveness to light, as doing so can show them that they cannot hide from you. If relapse does happen, connecting with the right treatment solution to get back on the road to recovery is crucial. A free service like Freedom From Addiction can be of help to explore the different treatment options available.
For 24/7 assistance, call 1.855.RECOVER or 1.855.732.6837.
While relapse is common in everyone's recovery journey, it does not mean that you should lose hope in them. It is important to remind your loved one that you are there for them and that they have not lost your support. Offer whatever help you can and make available whatever resources necessary to ensure that they have a happy and healthy recovery.
Sydney DeZinno is a writer from Tucson, AZ. A graduate of the University of Arizona, she an active advocate that is passionate about addiction recovery and helping those in crisis.
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