Being in recovery requires vigilance, especially when you’re new, and you’re not accustomed to dealing with the stress of life without the use of substances. There isn’t one strict formula for recovery, and predicting relapse isn’t a straight formula, either. Recognizing symptoms and reaching out for help can help you realize that you’re headed in the wrong direction. Even if you have these symptoms of relapse, going to a meeting, calling your sponsor and otherwise plugging back into your support network can help you save yourself the pain of relapse.
Here are some relapse warning signs to keep in mind:
- Negative feelings and poor coping skills. Dealing with heavy or upsetting emotions can make your desire for recovery wane, especially if you’re feeling “bored” or hopeless. After all, emotional pain is one primary reason people get high in the first place. You may feel angry, moody, anxious or depressed and not know how (or want) to cope with these emotions. You may not even be aware that you’re slipping backward, because you’re too miserable with these emotions to think about how to get through this rough patch. Coping with emotions can be hard and frightening, but you can do it. Seek out therapy if you’re having trouble with your feelings and talk with others in sobriety to learn new coping skills.
- Romanticizing your drug use. Addicted people often have trouble letting go of their old lifestyles, and on a bad day, you may look to the past and think that getting high wasn’t so bad. This thinking can lead you to fantasize about using your substance of choice more often, and can quickly lead you down the road to picking up a drink or drug. Play the tape all the way through if this happens. When you get high, where is the worst place you’ve ended up? You could end up in jail, overdose, do something that you regret, and be too ashamed to get help before it’s too late. Then you’re back in the painful cycle of addiction.
- Reaching out to people who use. When you romanticize using, you may start to miss the people you used with. You may be tempted to say hello on Facebook or send a text, knowing they could invite you out or over to use with them. Don’t do it! Call your sponsor or a sober friend instead.
- Depression that won’t lift. Everyone feels “down” every once in a while, but depression can be a beast that won’t leave you alone. If you have feelings of hopelessness or despair, you may be suffering from the disease of depression as well. Speak to people you trust and consider getting a mental health evaluation. There’s no shame in getting healthcare for a mental health disorder. It’s treatable, and you CAN feel better.
- Spreading yourself too thin. Many people in recovery want to make up for everything they’ve lost and will work more, give more time to family, and do service work at meetings. At the same time, your body and mind haven’t even finished healing from your addiction. When you’re overwhelmed and exhausted, your mental defenses are also flooded. Take time to rest and learn to “just be.” Try meditation and mindfulness exercises to focus in quiet.
Learning to recognize your triggers for using is an integral part of staying clean. Many people who are clean have a relapse as a part of their story, but you don’t need to relapse to find recovery. If you’re still clean today, there is hope for tomorrow. Call people in your support network, use the tools you’ve been taught and remember you CAN stay clean, even if it’s just for today.
Pick up the phone BEFORE you pick up a drink or a drug. People want to help you, but they can’t read your mind. You’re responsible for your own recovery.
Need help? There are plenty of treatment centers that can help you get back on your feet in recovery, or seek out recovery for the first time. Call us at 1-866-227-1437 to learn more about your options.