Watch for Relapse
Addiction recovery generally doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, recovery us often a very long process which includes both successes and set backs. Relapse is very common, with around 40-60% of individuals that struggle with addiction sliding back into drug use (nida.org). However, there are 40-60% who also don’t relapse. This number is encouraging and focusing on the things one can do to identify and prevent relapse is key. Learning the signs of an impending relapse can help to steer individuals clear of it at the first sign of trouble.
SAMHSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has recommended that individuals in recovery make note of behaviors, triggers, or thoughts that have led to relapse or desire to relapse in the past. For instance, they recommend that individuals ask themselves questions similar to: How did you feel just before you had a hard time in the past or when you noticed that your habits or routines changed? or How do you feel when you know you are not feeling quite right?
Common signs of relapse include: anxiety, nervousness, forgetfulness, inability to experience pleasure, feeling slowed down or speeded up, avoiding others or isolating, being obsessed with something that doesn’t really matter, lack of motivation, displaying of irrational thought patterns, being uncaring, increased irritability and negativity, feeling disconnected from one’s body, missing appointments or being late to appointments, restlessness, more or less appetite. Obviously, not all of these things need be experienced to be at risk for a relapse. Even a single experience or thought can trigger a relapse. Others may not experience relapse until they have experienced several of the above mentioned experiences. However, if any of the early warning signs have been experienced, it’s important not to ignore them. Often, in rehab, individuals have a “tool kit” that they can go to or an individual they’ve been assigned to talk to if they are experiencing these symptoms these tools should be used! Relaxation exercises, journaling, reaching out to a counselor or trusted friend, or participating in an enjoyed activity for at least an hour a day, can also help in avoiding relapse. If you have any of these early warning signs, it’s important that you don’t ignore them.