One of the most important things we can educate ourselves on when we’re working to recover are some of the signs that a relapse is imminent. While it doesn’t serve us to be overly afraid or paranoid that we’ll relapse, and while it doesn’t help us to assume relapse is inevitable, we can help ourselves prepare for the challenges that may arise during recovery by educating ourselves on the signs a relapse is possible. Our experiences in recovery and with relapse will be unique to us, but there are some warning signs we often share in common.
One warning sign of relapse is worsened depression. When we’re feeling particularly down on ourselves, hopeless or defeated, we’re more susceptible to the temptation and addictive urges that lead to relapse. We don’t feel confident in our sobriety. When we feel on edge, restless, worried, extra stressed, or easily overwhelmed, we can be headed towards a possible relapse. When we have a particularly difficult episode with depression, chances are we haven’t learned the healing tools we need to cope with our changing moods and the various phases of our mental illnesses. The same coping mechanisms we can use to manage our mental health issues are the ones that benefit our addiction recovery, and when we haven’t developed or practiced them for ourselves, we can find ourselves struggling with both heightened depression and potential relapse. We can be more likely to want to self-medicate and numb our feelings when we’re experiencing a depressive phase. Our depression and addictive cycles can fuel each other, making our depression and other mental health issues potential catalysts for relapse.
Another relapse warning sign is feeling intense cravings that we feel are out of our control. We can feel powerless over the temptation we’re feeling. It can feel as though a powerful, uncontrollable force is driving our choices and our actions. We can feel like not only do we want our drug of choice, we need it and can’t live without it. This can be a scary place to be in. We can be so afraid of relapsing, of disappointing ourselves and letting our loved ones down, but at the same time feel unable to stop ourselves. We can feel as though our lives are out of our hands, like we aren’t in control of our bodies and minds. Our thoughts can race, we can feel like we’re losing our minds, or like our sanity is slipping away. Coupled with our mental health issues, our cravings can be the powerful force behind our relapse. We can find our willpower decreasing, especially as we’re feeling more and more depressed. We can feel the strength of our conviction dissipating, along with our resilience and sense of self.
A warning sign we don’t always talk about is feeling increased anger. We can resent our sobriety for the huge changes it has created in our lives. We can be bitter about all of the challenging transitions we’ve had to live with. We got comfortable with the familiarity of our addictions. We can find ourselves angry once we no longer have our drug of choice to self-medicate with. All of the emotions we’ve been numbing ourselves to, and avoiding, trying to distract ourselves from, come rushing back to us. Sometimes they manifest as depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, but sometimes they present themselves as intense anger. We can have fits of rage and have times where we don’t feel like ourselves. We can feel as though we don’t recognize the person we’ve become. We can find that our behaviors become unpredictable. We can be scared of what we’ll do. We can alarm our loved ones and give them extra cause for concern. We can direct our anger towards them, especially if they try to intervene on our behalf and convince us to get help. We can resent them for challenging us on our addictions, and for confronting us on our very serious issues. We can go for years trying to avoid the truth, convincing ourselves we don’t have a problem. When a loved one forces us to confront the truth, we can find ourselves feeling angry with them. The weight of our anger and hostility can make us want to escape with our drugs of choice. Anger is an often misunderstood emotion. We don’t like to admit when we have an anger problem. Very often it is this anger we’re trying to bury and suppress that can be the catalyst for our relapse.
Another warning sign we might be on the verge of relapsing are changes in our daily routines, especially our sleep habits and eating patterns. The added stress and depression that can be caused by insomnia can increase our chances of turning to our drugs of choice to help ourselves hope. Our health can begin to suffer. Our willpower can disintegrate. When we stop eating, or start overeating and bingeing, we might be experiencing extra emotional distress that is causing us so much overwhelm that our eating patterns are affected. We can develop both sleep disorders and eating disorders. These and other changes in our daily routines, such as an inability to get out of bed in the morning, feeling unmotivated, missing work or school, and neglecting our obligations, are all signs we’re struggling and might be headed for relapse.
Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you get back the life you love. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.