How do I know if I’m slipping? If you’re asking yourself this question, it could be that you already suspect your recovery might be in jeopardy. Or you might just be a bit cautious. Either way, knowing the signs of relapse can give you the time to take proactive steps to avoid slipping back into using.
Here are 10 common signs of an impending relapse; you don’t need to experience all of them to be at risk. For some, a single trigger can signal relapse is on the way. The key is learning how to recognize the warnings and reaching out for support at the first sign of trouble.
10 Warning Signs of Relapse
- Negative thinking. You find yourself regarding daily life as bleak and the tasks you need to do as burdensome. You feel like you have a great weight on your shoulders. Increasing feelings of hopelessness or negativity should alert you that you could be in danger of relapsing.
- Easily angered or annoyed. It’s as if your nerves are on hair-trigger sensitive. You become mad, even furious, often without warning and increasingly over small things. This isn’t like you, but you can’t seem to pull out of it. Getting into arguments with loved ones and family members more frequently is another clear sign that you could be on the verge of relapse.
- Complacency or overconfidence. After being in recovery for a while, it starts to seem like you’ve got it all down. You know what to do and begin to feel like you can handle any situation. As a result, you may let some of your regular recovery to-do items slide, for example, attending 12-step meetings or practicing self-care habits like healthy eating or exercising. If you find yourself becoming complacent or overly confident about your sobriety, you may need to reassess and reinvest in your recovery program.
- Increased stress. Without the comfortable crutch of alcohol, drugs or a problematic behavior to smooth over daily aggravations or unexpected situations, you may find your stress level is at the breaking point. Worries about finances, performance at work and how your recovery may be affecting your loved ones can all take a dramatic toll, wearing you down and increasing the likelihood of relapse.
- Skipping meetings. Not everyone needs to attend self-help support group meetings as part of their recovery. But if you’ve been in recovery for a period of time and you have found meetings helpful, after a while it may begin to seem tedious and unnecessary to keep going. Maybe you feel that you don’t need the regularity of meetings to keep you on course and that you’re perfectly fine on your own. That may in fact be true, but it’s worth paying attention to this tendency, as some may find it’s a short distance from cutting back or skipping recovery meetings to sliding into relapse.
- Putting yourself in risky situations. If you find that you’re going back to your old haunts and hanging out with friends you used to use with, that’s a precarious situation — and one likely full of old triggers. So guard against thoughts of revisiting the people, places and things you associate with using.
- Denial. Questioning whether you ever really had a problem or denying to others that you have a problem are both signs that you could be in danger of relapse. If others notice and comment on a difference in you, yet you continue to insist that you’re on top of your recovery, it may be time to slow down and reflect before you slip back into addictive patterns.
- Isolation. Holing up in the house, refusing to see friends and keeping your distance from family members are troublesome signs of relapse. When you’re in recovery, you need sober, supportive people in your life who reinforce this positive path you’re taking. If you feel depressed, disheartened or angry or alone, instead of sitting home and feeling miserable, get out and surround yourself with people (or at least one person) you trust and with whom you can share some time, even if you’re not ready to open up about how you’re feeling.
- Loss of interest in family, friends and activities. When problems start to mount and you feel like everything’s about to come crashing down on you, you may notice in yourself a tendency to withdraw from people and activities you once enjoyed. To safeguard your hard-won recovery, it’s important to talk about what’s bothering you, either with a trusted loved one, your sponsor, your therapist or counselor or a member of the clergy.
- Losing hope. When life looks completely black and you feel a sense of hopelessness and despair, this is a critical warning sign of impending relapse. Take such feelings seriously and get help right away.