There are millions of people in recovery from alcoholism throughout the entire world. All of them are aware of what a relapse is, what can come from it, and why it may happen in their lives. The goal of being in recovery from alcohol addiction is to keep from drinking alcohol again. And while many people achieve success in staying sober for a lifetime, many others experience a relapse.
So what is a relapse? A relapse is a term used to describe a person who has gotten sober but has begun regularly using drugs or alcohol again. In order for drug or alcohol use to be considered a relapse, a person must be using the substance or substances repeatedly. If someone has gotten sober but experiences a “slip up” where they drink or use just once more, that is known as a lapse. Relapse refers to a more complex and involved situation where the use is occurring again on a regular basis.
It can be difficult to understand why someone who puts in so much hard work and effort into getting sober goes back to using again, but unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Relapse occurs all the time. It is common for someone to relapse when something troubling occurs in their life, such as the sudden loss of a loved one, losing their job, getting a divorce, surviving a natural disaster, and so on. But, it is also common for someone’s actions to create a build-up to an eventual relapse, which is why it is important to be aware of the warning signs for alcohol relapse.
Warning Signs For an Alcohol Relapse
The work is far from done when someone gets sober from alcohol. Yes, some of the most difficult challenges have already been overcome, but that doesn’t mean it’s all uphill from there. There are several things that a person in recovery from alcoholism should be doing to continually preserve their sobriety and maintain their recovery. When those things are not being done, it can be a major sign that an alcohol relapse is imminent. Consider the following:
Not attending meetings/therapy
Participation in local support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or others diminishes over time, showing that the individual’s focus is no longer placed on their recovery like it used to be. Additionally, if a person who regularly sees a therapist starts canceling appointments or pushing them off, it can serve as a warning sign for relapse.
Bottling up emotions
People who have gone through alcohol treatment know that one of the most imperative things they need to do in their recovery is to share how they are feeling. When they bottle up their emotions, they can quickly become too much to manage, reducing one’s resiliency in their recovery. Turning to alcohol to cope can start looking like an easy way to mute those unexpressed emotions.
Fantasizing about past use
Glamorizing any past alcohol use can be a surefire sign that a relapse may occur. There is nothing fabulous about addiction, as it is a disease that can easily destroy and kill anything in its path. Talking about how much fun drinking used to be, or putting past drinking into a false context (e.g. recalling drinking as being fun or exciting when it was nothing of the sort) is also a red flag for potential relapse. Those who are steady in their recovery are typically steadfast in the opinion that their history with alcohol was nothing short of negative.
These are some of the most common signs to watch for if you or someone you love is on track to potentially relapsing. But, how can you tell if a relapse has already occurred?
Signs of an Actual Alcohol Relapse
There is more to figuring out that a loved one has relapsed than just going off of gut instincts. Instead, if your loved one has in fact relapsed, there are some prominent signs that can start to stick out like sore thumbs. Consider the following:
Changes in mood
Alcohol impacts one’s mood significantly. For example, when drunk, a person can be extremely content and even euphoric, while another person may be depressed, sad, and feeling hopeless. After sobering up, they can feel tired, irritable, physically unwell, and even depressed. Unpredictable changes in mood are often one of the top signs that someone has relapsed, as being in recovery allows for better regulation of emotions and, in turn, stronger mood regulation.
Becoming socially distant
People who suffer from alcoholism tend to become socially distant from others. This occurs because they want to be able to keep drinking without being judged or asked about why they are no longer sober. So, you may see your loved one spending more time on their own or away from the rest of the family if they are relapsing on alcohol.
Development of withdrawal symptoms
Alcohol addiction and withdrawal symptoms go hand-in-hand. Someone who is dependent on alcohol will start to develop withdrawal symptoms when unable to drink. So, if your loved one has relapsed but is not able to drink as much as they would like because others are around, they may start complaining of headaches, nausea, muscle cramps, and even serious vomiting or diarrhea. If these symptoms just suddenly disappear, chances are your loved one drank again, helping to alleviate the pain they were experiencing.
In addition to these signs, keep in mind what types of behaviors your loved one used to engage in when actively drinking. Keep your eyes peeled for those behaviors and do not excuse them away if you see them. You can help.
Do You Need Help? Call Us Today.
If you are concerned that your loved one is relapsing or is about to, do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. We know how scary it can be to think of your loved one going back to full-time drinking, but do not lose hope. There are things you can do and we are happy to show you how to do them.
So, call us right now. Make the decision to step in before it is too late.