What Does Relapse Feel Like?
Waking up from a stupor and realizing that your hard-won sobriety was lost is not a good feeling.
Relapse makes an addict feel angry and sad because they know that they have let themself and their loved ones down. It’s one of the worst feelings because you realize where it can place you. Relapse can lead you back to your former self, when you felt hopeless and helpless. But now, because of your experience in rehab, you know you can beat this addiction and change – even though it is sometimes difficult.
When an addict begins to feel himself or herself weakening with thoughts of using again, they may let it go on for a few days or weeks. Eventually those thoughts and feelings of wanting to use again will take over and the addict will act out on those thoughts and feelings. If he had only nipped it in the bud and put it in its proper place, relapse would not have happened.
There are warning signs of relapse that can help an addict recognize when the danger of a relapse is lurking within. Once these warning signs are recognized the addict must take immediate steps to address the problem and put an end to it. Allowing it to grow stronger is like opening the front door and inviting it in to stay. If you recognize any of these warning signs then you should get help as soon as possible:
- Remembering the days of the past when you were using drugs or alcohol, and romanticizing it as fun and exciting. The truth is it didn’t turn out to be so much fun after all when you lost your job, your family, your home, your health, your freedom and your mind. Stop trying to deceive yourself and face reality. Remember that you got sober for a reason, to save yourself and make a new and better life. You became sober to have your family back and enjoy good physical, mental and spiritual health. You have set goals for yourself that you want to reach and should be focusing on them and not on how to self-sabotage.
- Starting to think that you have learned how to manage addiction and now you can have just one drink or do drugs and not fall back into addiction. These compulsions are a part of addiction and you have to fight back with coping mechanisms. Begin by telling yourself that you do not need to use anymore and start to use distraction strategies that you learned in cognitive behavior therapy. To get your mind off of the craving go for a walk or bike ride, watch a movie, visit with a friend for support, or engage in any activity that will get your mind off of the craving.
- Becoming defensive and engaging in denial again is an indicator to you and your loved ones that you are using again or about to. Family and friends should begin to engage in kind, loving, supportive communication to make you realize their concern for your health and recovery, and that you may be at risk.
- Attitude and behavioral changes are a clear indicator that something is wrong. If you are starting to feel depressed, lonely, ashamed, rejected, etc. remember that using again will not make those feelings go away permanently. They will still be there when you get sober, so the best thing to do is deal with the feelings now. Talk with trusted family or friends, and your counselor or therapist and begin to work through those negative feelings.
- Losing contact with friends and family, breaking down relationships and feeling resentment toward those who are trying to help you. The addict needs to speak with his counselor or therapist about this problem and also seek support from his peers in his support group.
- Losing interest in recreational activities and hobbies that you once enjoyed can be a warning sign that your focus has shifted to using again. The addict should begin to engage in his favorite pastimes again, even if it is difficult to get started. He will begin to feel the pleasure and enjoyment he felt before. He should also talk with his therapist about this problem also.
When an addict finds himself slipping back into his former thought patterns, his behavior will soon follow. He, and his family, should recognize these dangerous signs of relapse and address them immediately. When the addict takes control of his thought life and feelings, he will be able to fight off any urge to relapse.