Achieving a full recovery from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) requires the use of relapse prevention strategies. Whether you finished rehab yesterday or did so a decade ago, the risk of a relapse is almost always present. Learning to identify the signs of an impending relapse is a crucial first step before any of these strategies could be successfully implemented.
Below are some of the signs of an impending relapse. Experiencing more than one of the signs below may be a reason to seek the help of your support group. Please get in touch with your counselor if you feel it especially difficult to maintain sobriety. Contact our team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers for a list of rehab facilities and other important AUD recovery resources.
1.) You’re feeling unusually stressed and anxious
Stress and anxiety often trigger extreme cravings in recovering individuals. While stress and anxiety may not necessarily be problematic by themselves in short doses, experiencing these for prolonged periods or in extreme degrees can leave you vulnerable to a relapse.Fortunately, there are plenty of effective strategies for mitigating stress and anxiety in the short term. Breathing exercises, practicing mindfulness, weightlifting and aerobics, and even taking short walks can all reduce stress and anxiety symptoms, and therefore, cravings in the short term.However, if stress or anxiety continues to be a problem, you may want to consider making some lifestyle changes after consulting with a qualified counselor.
2.) You intentionally put yourself near temptation
Given that alcohol is a legal and readily available product, the temptation to drink is probably always just around the corner. With your learnings in rehab and support from your counselors, groups, and loved ones, dealing with these situations will probably become a non-issue in due time.
However, intentionally seeking out situations where you can test your sobriety is a common, though less-discussed sign of an impending relapse. Recovering individuals that do this will often later reason that they have developed enough willpower to drink and stop whenever they want to. This is not usually the case in reality.
If you find yourself being a bit overconfident in your sobriety, consider getting in touch with your support group or counselor.
3.) You experienced a severe loss or setback
When tragedy strikes, recovering individuals will often find themselves unable to stop strong cravings. The loss of a loved one, pet, career, or stability in one’s life can be a traumatic experience that wreaks havoc on a person’s ability to regulate their emotions.
Unfortunately, emotional regulation is key for most relapse prevention strategies. When these happen, you may want to strongly consider getting support or having a temporary lifestyle change to help you better avoid a relapse.
4.) A lack of interest in recovery
As cravings diminish, it’s understandable that you might be less interested in meeting your support group or counselor regularly. However, continually skipping sessions or showing a lack of interest in maintaining recovery might be indicative of bigger problems, especially when combined with the other red flags on this list.
5.) Constant exhaustion
Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to be depressed without even knowing about it. It often manifests itself as constant exhaustion and the lack of mental energy to follow through with therapy and counseling. It also disrupts the ability to think objectively, which important in cognitive-behavioral therapy, the standard psychotherapy approach for AUD.
Depression is normal and commonplace in people with SUD, especially in the early part of recovery. Fortunately, once identified, depression is treatable. Once depression is controlled, following one’s chosen relapse strategies should be much easier.
6.) A lack of self-care
Having an unhealthy diet, not getting enough exercise, and not engaging in any hobbies are not always indicative of relapse by themselves. However, not engaging in self-care activities can lead you to be more vulnerable to a relapse, especially in case of continued stress or when personal tragedy happens.
Self-care routines help give a sense of being grounded, make you feel good, and may make you less susceptible to a serious relapse when your sobriety starts to get tested. When self-care starts to lapse, it may indicate that the individual is starting to lose focus in their recovery.
7.) Lying to family, counselors, and support group buddies
While not ideal, the occasional white lie is normal and to be expected, especially in people with emotional trauma who are not quite ready to confront themselves. However, willfully deceiving the people who are out to support you is a major red flag that often means one has either already relapsed or is imminently headed for one.
If you catch yourself lying about sobriety, it may be time to seek the help of an AUD recovery professional.
Relapse prevention is a crucial part of maintaining and achieving a permanent recovery from AUD. But before you can avoid relapses, you must learn how to see the signs before they happen. Hopefully, the information above will help you identify your relapse risks more effectively.
Thankfully, if you do relapse a few times, it’s not the end of the world. AUD recovery is an ongoing process that is different for everyone, and everyone makes mistakes. Do your best to stay on top of your recovery routines and be honest with your counselor, support groups, family, and yourself. So long as you maintain consistency, recovery is sure to follow. Good luck, and stay sober!