Before each stage of relapse begins, there are several telltale warning signs. By being able to identify these signs, it’s possible to stop the process in its tracks before it snowballs into relapse.
It’s also important to be able to spot these warning signs when they appear in friends or loved ones. For many, addiction is incredibly challenging to face alone, and without the support of friends and family, they are highly likely to return to the cycle of substance abuse.
The first warning signs are emotional. They both precede and go hand in hand with the “emotional relapse” stage. These signs typically manifest as:
- Feeling disinterested by activities that normally excite you
- Having trouble finding pleasure in things that typically bring you joy
- Ignoring or repressing emotions
These signs are soon followed by the next stage of warning signs, in which a user lies about his or her feelings regarding addiction to their support group, and uses mental tricks that downplay the negative aspects of cravings or drug use. They may begin the process of internal bargaining and weighing the pros and cons of returning to alcohol or drug use. Of course, these calculations are totally skewed and are not grounded in a realistic assessment of the consequences.
Just before a user may return to alcohol or drug use, there will be a set of physical warning signs. If these signs are identified during this stage it’s still possible to prevent a relapse, but in many cases users keep to themselves during this period, making it difficult for friends or support groups to intervene. Some of the most common signs during this phase include:
- Asking around for their substance of choice
- Placing his or herself in an unhealthy environment in which drugs are available
- Using “just once” justifications