What Triggers Relapse?
02/07/19: Addiction \ Addiction Recovery \ Relapse Prevention
Addiction is no easy thing to overcome. For many people, it is difficult to kick an addiction even if they try to make changes for themselves. When a person does seek recovery, they become susceptible to relapse. What is a relapse? It can be defined as “intense drug cravings and an inability to control drug use despite negative consequences”. During the early stages of recovery, a person has to fight off the urges to give in to their past addiction. Staying clean every day is a struggle and even the smallest things can trigger someone into a full relapse. When relapse happens, they fall right back into their old dangerous ways and have a harder time coming out of it.
Some recent studies tell us that 85% of people that first seek recovery fall victim to relapse within the first month after their initial treatment. ⅔ of these individuals fall right back into their old habits within months, sometimes even weeks. Relapse is more common than most of us imagine it to be. Even though relapse is not ideal and sometimes scary, it is not as abnormal as we think. Most people that first try to live sober end up relapsing within the first year of their initial recovery. Though this sort of statistic is alarming, it’s important to realize we are human and we all make mistakes. Though people sometimes fall back into substance abuse, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Even after a relapse, people overcome their substance abuse and come out strong. The key to sobriety is managing triggers and identifying possible warning signs that may lead to a relapse. So what are some of these triggers and how do you prevent them?
When someone is triggered it is typically as a result of arousing feelings or memories associated with a particularly traumatic experience. These triggers often lead someone to fall right back into their past behaviors, falling right back into addiction. Here’s a list of some common triggers former addicts may encounter:
1. Physical Proximity
Physical proximity to a substance can actually be very dangerous for a former addict. A recovering alcoholic at a party could easily see everyone drinking and feel more comfortable having a couple drinks. The same thing can apply for a former drug addict. Some people have an easier time managing this trigger, but others can easily fall victim to it. If an addict is already battling their desires, having that substance right in front of them can make them fall right back into substance abuse. It can become impossible to ignore the cravings.
People typically use a substance as a way to help them escape something; a sort of chemical refuge. One of the biggest reasons for people to abuse substances is negative emotions. Stress, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, hopelessness, etc. all have a huge effect on people that suffer from addiction. These emotions can be extremely difficult for a former addict to manage without any sort of substance. This typically causes them to want to get a quick fix to make them “feel better”, causing a relapse.
3. People and Places
People and places even play a huge factor in relapse. Anything that can be related back to an addict's former lifestyle can easily cause them to relapse. Old friends that enabled past actions, family members or loved ones that caused them emotional turmoil, or even a place that reminds them of a past breakup can cause a person to fall right back into addiction. In the same way, places like bars, pubs, liquor stores, houses where the person used to abuse a substance, can make them fall back into their old ways. Avoiding these people and places is vital if an addict wants to recover fully.
Signs of a Relapse
A relapse may not happen instantly, it can take time for a relapse to build up. It can be many trigger events adding up and overwhelming a person. The best thing for a person to do is look for the warning signs, learn how to overcome them, and fight off a relapse. Here are some of the most telling signs of relapse:
1. Change in Behavior
One of the most obvious signs of an oncoming relapse is a change in behavior. For example, an addict may decide that participating in recovery-based therapy is no longer necessary. They may even decide to ignore other people around them and start to think about themselves a bit more. Their entire mood can change at the flick of a switch. More than likely though, they will not be vocal about what is going on in their head.
2. Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms are easily the biggest sign that a withdrawal has happened or is about to happen. Headaches, cravings, nausea, irritation, cold sweats, and other symptoms are very common signs of someone that is deprived of a substance. The former addict may have used and is trying to wean off the substance or they are having intense cravings for them, which is causing them to have these symptoms. The best way to attack these symptoms is to find the source, learn how to cope without substances, and eliminate the issue.
3. Psychological Signs
There are a number of different psychological signs you can see for someone that is suffering from withdrawal. Here are some of the most prominent and easily identifiable ones:
- Frequent mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lethargic demeanor
4. Social Breakdown
When someone has a social breakdown, it can be a surefire way of telling whether or not they are suffering from withdrawal. A social breakdown typically comes from a combination of irritation, stress, and anxiety. Typically, the person breaks off all social interactions and keeps themselves secluded from the world and any normal activities they perform.
All these things can easily tell us if someone is experiencing withdrawal. The main thing an addict needs to do, in order to combat this, is learn how to cope with their triggers and understand that they are not alone. During recovery, you are not alone, there are people out there that love you and others that can completely relate to your struggles. Withdrawal is just a part of the recovery process. It is not easily overcome, but it is possible.
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