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10 Warning Signs of a Relapse

Posted by arizonarecovery on July 28, 2020

Recovering from addiction can be challenging and overwhelming. When a person gets on the road to recovery, they might experience numerous ups and downs on the way, including the possibility of a relapse. By definition, a relapse or a “slip” refers to returning to drug or alcohol consumption after a period of sobriety and abstinence.

Relapse is an extremely common phenomenon. Relapses that are now accepted as an almost inevitable part of the recovery process and individuals recovering from various forms of addiction do frequently encounter it. In fact, research indicates that 40 – 60 % of individuals in recovery do experience relapse at some point in their journey.

10 Warning Signs of a Relapse

There are multiple factors that can trigger a relapse in an individual. However, recognizing the warning signs of a relapse can significantly reduce or even prevent it from occurring. We have listed down 10 warning signs of a relapse that you need to look out for in yourself or your loved ones who are recovering from addiction to minimize its risk.

1. Believing You Can Use Again Without Getting Addicted

During the recovery stage, you might be compelled to use addictive substances recreationally. For instance, you could have a strong urge to prove that you have overcome your addiction by consuming “just one drink.” However, it is important for you to understand that this “one time” can ultimately become many more times and eventually lead you back into addiction.

2. Feeling Lonely, Bored or Anxious

Living your new life of sobriety won’t be easy. You may be consumed by boredom and loneliness. Therefore, keep yourself busy and seek support from your loved ones. It is also important to take part in activities that you enjoy. Adjusting to a new life takes time and conscious effort by indulging in fun activities that can keep the negative feelings at bay.

3. Compulsive Behavior

If you start becoming compulsive or rigid in the way you think and behave, you may be leading yourself towards a relapse. You might develop a tendency to repeat the same tasks over and over again without any reason. Additionally, you might also feel the need to control conversations with others either by talking a lot or staying completely silent. Small activities that you initially enjoyed might now begin to dominate you and so you just do them automatically even though you no longer enjoy them.

4. Changing Behavior

Gradually changing the daily routine that you established in early sobriety that helped you substitute your compulsive behavior with healthy choices is a sure sign of relapse. This can include giving up on exercise or stop playing any outdoor sport.  Moreover, there are high chances that you also begin to avoid people who call you out on your changing behavior.

5. You Start Skipping Recovery Meetings

A common sign of relapse is isolation from your peers in recovery. For instance, you may start to feel uncomfortable around people and come up with excuses to avoid socialization. Skipping recovery meetings or attending them but refusing to actively participate in them may indicate an emotional relapse.

Full commitment to your treatment plan requires you to actively participate in your recovery group even when you don’t feel like it. This is one of the best ways to ensure you stay sober.

6. Loss of Control

You might start indulging in irrational behavior, such as spending excessively on things you don’t need or start disconnecting with people who can help you recover. You might experience feelings of hopelessness and start believing that you will never be able to overcome your addiction problems. Eventually, you begin to lose confidence in your ability to take control of your life.

7. Hanging Out with Former Friends

A crucial part of the recovery stage is to cut off ties with former friends or acquaintances who are still associated with alcohol or drug abuse. Getting in touch with any of these individuals significantly increases the chances of relapse. In some situations, this may also indicate that a relapse has already taken place.

8. Denial

If you begin to revert to your post-recovery behavior and patterns, you probably are aware of it to some extent. Acknowledging such behaviors and working on them is an effective part of recovery. However, if you start taking a defensive approach towards yourself or your loved ones, then this indicates denial. This behavior should ring a bell to you that you may be spoiling your recovery efforts.

9. Irregular Eating and Sleeping Habits

You may begin to experience weight gain or loss due to overeating or undereating. Skipping meals at regular times or replacing a healthy, nourishing diet with junk food is a strong indicator of relapse.

Similarly, you need to keep a lookout for deteriorating sleeping habits. If you experience trouble sleeping or feel restless during sleep, you need to speak to your counselor. Another warning sign of relapse is sleeping for twelve to twenty hours at a stretch or staying up for long time periods.

10.Behaving Like a Dry Drunk

Behaving in ways similar to your addiction days even when you have stopped drinking or consuming drugs can indicate a high chance of relapse. If this happens, make a conscious effort to break away from those habits and distract yourself by engaging in a productive task.


Relapse during alcohol and drug addiction is common and predictable but this does not mean that it cannot be prevented. Having a sound knowledge of the signs of a relapse and learning about prevention skills can help you stay right on track.

However, in the event that a relapse does occur, do not feel that it is the end of the world. Understand that your relapse is not a failure and consider it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. If you do fall into relapse, it is extremely crucial for you to get back up and connect with your therapist so that they can assess your situation and determine the best course plan of action.

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