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Signs of Relapse Written By: A Current Client at Reprieve Recovery Center


In early recovery, newcomers like myself are more likely to relapse when they begin to show certain signs that will lead to it. These signs can be broken down in to three stages. The first one is categorized emotional. It stems in the brain usually even before we consider using again. Pessimistic attitudes or points of view can be present, as well as abnormal sleeping or eating habits. Usually, we also stop using our sober network, stop praying, and revert to our old behaviors such as lying, stealing, cheating, missing commitments, being selfish, or putting other things like relationships or sex in front of our recovery program. My personal signs of relapse are usually the following: telling irrelevant, miniscule white lies about anything and everything. I also tend to get involved in sexual relationships because of the high it gives me, as well as the distraction it provides. Overspending and shopping can be another sign for me too, for the same reasons.


The second stage of relapse is categorized mentally. There is war going on inside our brains fighting to either stay sober or go back out and use again. Alcohol is known as a recurring disease because some of us will always have a part of ourselves that will always want to use, successfully or not. I personally have dealt with these thoughts severely in the past for the first few months of being sober. Eventually action thoughts begin to pop up and it is almost impossible to prevent the third and final step of relapse: physical.


Physical relapse is when we go pick up that first drink or drug again. Once at this stage, we often might stay in active addiction for a lengthy period, which usually leads to three things- jail, institution, or death. Sometimes we can also get those cases of the “fuck its”. This is referring to the attitude we get when we start to not care about remaining sober or not. I also have had this attitude. Every time it would arise for me, I relapsed. It is a hard point of view to change. Complacency is another common mental relapse symptom. I stop going to meetings or calling my sponsor or stop showing up to work.


The term relapse means the return of a disease. For example, diseases like malaria go long periods of time with no symptoms, following a return of symptoms. For addicts or alcoholics, the word relapse means to return to addiction. Because our tolerance to the substance or drug of choice most likely has decreased, the chance of overdose is greater than when we were in active addiction before we got sober. These warning signs are especially important to recognize. Once they are, we should call our sponsor or sober network immediately and then be sure to pray as well. There are several triggers to look out for when battling addiction. These include unrealistic expectations, and the disappointment that follows when we cannot meet them. It also can arise when we reconnect with old friendships or family relationships we used with in the past. The common triggers are known as, hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. However, when we are honest with ourselves, we finally realize that anything can be a trigger no matter how small. Therefore, it is vital to have a strong relapse prevention plan put in place, so we have a cushion to fall back on when these situations such as these arise.