Relapse doesn’t just happen
The disease of addiction never goes away; it only goes into remission. No matter who you are or how long you’ve been sober, relapse is always a possibility. Unlike other diseases, however, relapse doesn’t just happen. Relapse is a process. And it’s better to acknowledge signs of relapse than deal with the consequences after a slip up.
For this reason, self awareness is especially important in recovery (as is increased self-esteem in recovery). You need to continually check in with yourself in order to keep your addiction at bay. Being self-aware will allow you to identify the beginning of the relapse process so that you can stop it in its tracks.
Be honest with yourself
To see the warning signs of relapse, you must be honest with yourself and how you’re feeling. Relapse usually begins with unmanaged stress. Everyone experiences stress, and it can either be dealt with or left to fester, grow, and eventually lead to relapse. That’s why it’s so important to recognize stress and learn how to cope with it.
There are also other events and emotions in life that tend to lead to relapse if they’re not handled properly. In order to keep yourself healthy and happy in recovery, you should be on the look out for the following warning signs of relapse:
- avoiding dealing with problems
- being excessively bored
- changes in hygiene or health
- changes in routine (such as sleeping or eating)
- conflicts with others
- criticizing yourself for not being “good enough” or failing to meet your own expectations
- dwelling on negative emotions, the past, or unresolved issues
- feeling overly confident in your recovery (believing you no longer need support or treatment)
- feeling overwhelmed by your life or your emotions
- isolating yourself
- major, sudden changes in life (positive or negative)
- not following your treatment plan
- obsessive thinking about using drugs or drinking
- returning to “people, places, or things” (that you associate with drugs or drinking)
Create a plan to cope with stress
If you notice any of those feelings or behaviors in yourself, it’s time to take a closer look at what’s going on. These warning signs indicate a problem that you’re not dealing with, and the stress of it can build until you eventually relapse. You need to identify that problem and create a plan to handle it.
The sooner you catch the warning signs, the better. The longer you ignore them, the closer you’ll get to relapse. It helps to be honest with someone in your support system (family, friends, therapists, sponsors, etc.), and that person can help you stay on track in reaching your goal to resolve the issue that’s putting your recovery in danger.
Relapse is not a requirement of recovery. As long as you know the warning signs and remain self aware and vigilant, you can stay far, far away from the possibility of relapse.