By Marianne Wylie, MSW, RSW
Do you find yourself in a pattern of promising yourself that you won’t use or drink again but then find you have slipped again and again? Feeling discouraged? It might be helpful to get to know your signs of an incoming relapse or slip.
The following are common “warning signs” that an addiction relapse may be on it’s way. That’s right, there are emotional, physical and behavioural signs that one commonly experiences before the slip.
Over-confidence - This happens when you start to believe that you have mastered recovery early on and no longer need to use the behavioural changes and supports you had been using to help you. This, then, can lead to letting your guards down and placing yourself in vulnerable positions to relapse.
Depression – Are you noticing that many of your days include mood changes where you are either feeling low and tearful or angry and irritable? Have you been diagnosed with depression but it is not being treated? There is a relationship between mental illness and addiction. Untreated depressive symptoms can increase vulnerability to fighting off urges to use or drink.
Omnipotence – This is the belief that you do not need anyone’s help and you can master recovery on your own. While some people can do this, many people find that they need support as they make substance use changes. Believing that you don’t need support can make the changes in recovery harder as you ignore suggestions from others.
Impatience – This can include feeling like changes in life aren’t happening fast enough or you feel that loved ones aren’t trusting you as quickly as you had hoped. Changes that you make with addiction takes time. Reward yourself for the changes made thus far and see that even though you may not be where you hoped you would be by now, you are still on your way. Also, remember that it takes time for loved ones to build trust. They have been hurt by the addiction too.
Dishonesty – Starts with little white lies to others then comes lying to yourself. It involves finding excuses why it’s acceptable to do what you should not to do or not do what you should. This pattern often leads to major dishonesty that is often part of active addiction.
Isolating from support system – Have you stopped attending the programs that have been helpful? Stopped talking to those who are a support to your recovery? Avoiding positive people? Isolating yourself from your supports often leads to relapse. Support people and programs are there to help you stay on track through support and education.
Exhausted and Overwhelmed – Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed often leads to feeling tired and like it is difficult staying afloat. A lack of rest and down time will lower the threshold for the impact that stressors have and urges to use often increase.
If you are noticing any of the above, don’t panic. The warning signs do not mean you will slip. They are just signs to watch out for so that you can better prepare yourself to prevent a slip. The first step is building your awareness to what you are experiencing. Then you can take action to do what is helpful for you to prevent a slip (i.e. take time to rest, reach out to your supports, keep those guards up if feeling too confident, etc.). Need more help? We can help.
Information from Alcohol, Drug and Gambling Services. Hamilton, ON.
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