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Signs of Relapse

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What are the Warning Signs that My Loved One Has Relapsed?


The first thing to remember about addiction and recovery is that everyone has a different story and a different path to take. Relapse is something that should be avoided if possible, but is often part of a person’s journey.

If your loved one has suffered a relapse, remember that there is no shame in this event. The focus should be on the progress that has been made thus far and the lessons learned from the relapse. All experiences in life can be used to make better choices in the future.

Some people can learn from the mistakes of others, while others learn by making the mistakes themselves and learning from their own experiences. Whatever the case, take this as an opportunity to learn and grow from the experiences of the past.


Living a sober lifestyle is a journey, not a destination. Relapse should be a learning experience about new triggers & sticking to the boundaries that will keep you safe and sober.

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Do You Know What Your Loved One is Going Through? 


Our network understands the fear of relapse experienced by those in sobriety. After all, you have put in time, energy and focus to recover. Fear of trying hard only to experience a relapse is common for those recovering.

It is not uncommon to have nightmares about relapse. Maybe you try to hide it in the dream or attempt to justify the using. The fear of returning to one’s old, self-destructive behaviors is a very real issue for many people in recovery, especially early sobriety.

Relapse is an experience, not a defining moment. Sometimes relapse is a part of the journey—sometimes not. It is important not to justify a relapse with the excuse that it is part of the journey because it is not a requirement. Just as important, do not beat yourself up about a relapse.

Relapse can be a teaching moment about triggers, stressors, or key identifiers that healthy boundaries are not being upheld or met by friends, family members, or coworkers. Learn what you can from the experience and move on with your recovery.

The danger of relapsing is always a fear of death and further devastation and demoralization. Some people relapse and die from the first dose. Others may slide further down into the abyss of addiction, losing everything gained and anything that was not lost before.

It is not uncommon for those who relapse to rapidly accelerate their use and progress in their drug of choice. For instance, an alcoholic who relapses may progress to using meth daily.

Relapse is appropriately feared by those in recovery. However, if a relapse occurs, it is not the end of the world if the individual reaches out for help and gets back on the sobriety wagon as quickly as possible.


Co-Occurring Disorders and Relapse: Maintaining Sobriety & Being Mindful of Mental Illness


Co-occurring disorders and proper treatment of these mental health issues is an enormous part of a successful recovery. Underlying mental issues can cause relapse and other traumatic experiences.

Some of the most commonly witnessed co-occurring disorders are depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and bipolar disorder. These disorders frequently see interplay with addiction as sufferers reach for substances in an attempt to self-medicate.

For example, in the case of depression, anyone who is not adequately or has successfully managed their depression symptoms is at an increased risk of relapse. The perpetual depressed mood is seen as a motivator to use substances that will ease this symptom.

This is why co-occurring disorders are considered vitally important to treat alongside the substance abuse issue. The two or more psychiatric issues can accentuate the severity of the other issues and cause a full-blown relapse of both the substance use disorder and other disorders.

Proper treatment of the co-occurring disorders is imperative. Medications are commonly used to treat such disorders as depression, PTSD and bipolar disorder, among others. Medications not being taken as prescribed or not adequately treating the condition can lead to unstable mood and a resurgence of the original symptoms, which can then lead to a relapse.


4 Signs That Your Loved One Has Already Relapsed & is Struggling


A key part of any good treatment program is preparing relapse prevention analysis to find each individual’s greatest areas for improvement and caution.

Again, relapse is not a defining moment, but an experience on the journey towards long-term health and happiness. Relapse does not have to be part of your story, but if it is, do not despair.

Everyone has different behaviors when headed toward relapse. However, there are some common changes that can be identified in most everyone who relapses.

These include changes in mood, stopping the recovery program, isolating oneself, denial, and rationalization of using.


1. Abrupt Changes in Mood

The emotions must be regulated in order to function properly throughout the day. When a person begins to derail emotionally, this can potentially be a sign of relapse. Drugs and Alcohol cause massive fluctuations in mood, which can be difficult to hide from others.

2. No longer Working a Recovery Program

One common occurrence among those who have relapsed is a discontinuation of the recovery program he or she started when first entering sobriety. People often feel as though they don’t need the program anymore or have decided it will not work and therefore stop trying.

3. Isolation

Isolation is recommended against when early in recovery or during any time in life. We are social creatures and isolating behaviors usually indicates shame or something being hidden. It is easier to continue using if there is no one around to see your using and other bad behaviors.

4. Denial and Rationalization

Denial and rationalization is an enemy of those who want to stay sober. A person can rationalize any behavior given enough internal motivation to do so. Coupled with denial, which prevents the person from seeing the full implications of his or her thoughts and actions, the situation can become disastrous.

Why Relapse is a Part of the Journey


Many people do not understand the role of relapsing in a person’s journey. The expectation that someone will go through treatment and never relapse is the same as saying a person headed for college or into life will never make a mistake or falter; it is simply unreasonable.

All people have tough moments in life, which may only be considered a mistake if the person refuses to learn from the experience. The event of a relapse is nothing more than an incomplete shield against using. The holes in one’s armor may not have been realized until the relapse occurred.

The goal is not to shame or demean those who experience a relapse, but to encourage growth and self-love from all experiences in life—good and bad.

A relapse may mean that newly founded boundaries were inefficiently maintained with friends, family or coworkers. Perhaps the person over-extended him or herself and lost sight of recovery. Or, possibly, a friend or family member who is unhealthy was allowed too close.

The experience of a relapse does not have to be a real-life nightmare. Upon waking the next morning, or when the effects wear off enough to realize what has happened, reach out for help and prevent yourself from continuing the relapse.

If Your Loved One Relapses


No one ever said that the journey into recovery was easy or simple. That is why many addiction treatment centers provide help even after treatment ends. Many programs allows people to complete their 90-day program and then they can receive a 28-day tune up in the event of a relapse.

During month-long refresher courses, patients readdress triggers experienced during the relapse and help him or her learn from the event. Continued care strategies will be covered as well, which include such options as sober living and outpatient therapy.

The reality is that many people have used drugs or alcohol for years and then are expected to change their thinking and behaviors completely in a relatively short amount of time. It is common to have a slip-up. However, that slip-up indicates that something was missed or still needs work.

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Be There for Your Loved One When They Need it the Most with Reputable Sources to get Them Back on Track


When you are researching rehabs, treatment cost, and aftercare plans for substance abuse you want reliable information that will truly help you convince your loved one to go to rehab. You want to help them the best way you can and finding reputable information is important in the decision to get them the help they need for their addiction. Finding trustworthy information can be challenging. There is so much out there, and no one wants to base their life changing decisions on fake news.

ABTRS provides knowledge about the recovery process from unbiased resources. Below is a list of sources we utilize that will provide impartial information that is not funded by organizations that could benefit from certain outcomes, and proven or tested to be effective for substance abuse treatment and aftercare. We will continue to try to provide you with reputable sources that are up-to-date and relevant.


Bowen, S., Chawla, N., Collins, S. E., Witkiewitz, K., Hsu, S., Grow, J., Clifasefi, S., Garner, M., Douglass, A., Larimer, M. E., … Marlatt, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based relapse prevention for substance use disorders: a pilot efficacy trial. Substance abuse, 30(4), 295-305.

Tracy, K., & Wallace, S. P. (2016). Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction. Substance abuse and rehabilitation, 7, 143-154. doi:10.2147/SAR.S81535

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 18-4742PT4. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2018. 

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