Alcohol relapse can sneak up on a person. It can begin long before they pick up a drink. The process usually starts with a change in feelings, behaviors, or attitudes, and ends with a full-blown relapse. Those changes are the early warning signs that a relapse is likely to happen soon. So, it is wise to be aware of the signs that indicate a potential problem.
Predictors of Alcohol Relapse: Are They Valid?
Researchers have identified a group of predictors or early warning signs that a person is headed for a relapse. Taking action right away can help prevent a person from falling back on alcohol use or abuse.
According to experts, the following warning signs are valid predictors of a pending relapse:
Higher stress levels.
Sometimes, returning to the outside world after rehab can be a stressful and frightening experience. Little things that don’t bother other people can seem overwhelming to someone in recovery. Unrealistic expectations can drive a person to put demands on themselves that cause increased stress. Mood swings and negative attitudes or feelings can make the situation worse and trigger a relapse.
Changes in attitude and behavior.
At first, a person is optimistic and motivated about rebuilding their life after rehab. But, as time progresses, they seem to lose interest. For some reason, it’s just not as important as it once was. The person knows something is wrong but can’t identify the problem or what to do about it. When approached about the changes, they become defensive and may begin avoiding others.
A person in recovery wants to feel that they are making progress. They want to control their own life and prove to themselves and others that they can succeed. With this strong determination comes a tendency to ignore the fact that stress is becoming an issue. This form of denial can be a precursor to relapse.
Withdrawal symptoms reappear.
Some alcohol withdrawal symptoms continue long after a person stops drinking. This stage is known as post-acute withdrawal. Furthermore, these symptoms can reappear during elevated stress. When this happens, the individual may choose to self-medicate with alcohol.
Abandoning daily routines.
Before rehab, a person does not care about daily structure or routines. So, it can be hard to adjust to following a schedule afterward. Some people lose interest in it and begin sleeping late, skipping meals, or ignoring hygiene. Others may stop going to counseling or support groups. Over time, they start feeling lonely, frustrated, helpless, or guilty. These are often warning signs that alcohol relapse is possible.
Inability to make healthy decisions.
Some individuals in recovery struggle with confusion or are unable to think clearly. As a result, they behave irrationally and make unhealthy decisions. They think they can control their alcohol consumption, so they begin drinking again.
3 Stages of Relapse You Should Know
Relapse often occurs in 3 different stages. The stages are mental, emotional, and physical. Here are some of the warning signs of each stage:
- Mental relapse: The mind is in a battle between drinking or not drinking. A person in this stage may reminisce about the fun things they did while drinking.
- Emotional relapse: In this stage, the person exhibits defensiveness, anger, anxiety, isolation, and sleeplessness.
- Physical relapse: At this stage, the individual decides to take a drink. Some will continue drinking for many months or years. Others will see the relapse as a learning experience and take action to avoid repeating the behavior.
What to Do About Alcohol Relapse Warning Signs
Now that you’re familiar with the warning signs of alcohol relapse, what can you do about them? Several techniques are effective in helping a person regain control. The best strategy is to get active. Do something that makes you feel good so you’ll stop thinking about taking a drink. Many people find the following activities helpful:
- Useful tasks – cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, ironing, or other activities that promote feelings of wellbeing.
- Exercise – Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones. When a person feels good physically, they feel good mentally as well.
- Arts, crafts, games – Any outlet you find for self-expression is an excellent way to stay focused and prevent boredom that can lead to thoughts of drinking. Movies, reading, and music are also good outlets.
- Participate in sports – If you take part in a sport, the benefits are worth the effort. While having fun, getting exercise, and socializing in this manner, you cultivate positive thoughts to replace thoughts of drinking.
- Help others – Volunteering to help others can help build your self-esteem. You can find numerous programs in the community where your time is appreciated.
Alcohol relapse is not uncommon. However, how a person responds to the relapse will make the difference between a temporary setback or a lingering problem.
If you relapse, talk to a trusted friend or sponsor, and avoid isolating yourself. You can find your way back to sobriety with the right resources, so don’t be ashamed to reach out.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Design for Change Recovery
At Design for Change Recovery, we understand the difficulties involved in transitioning from rehab to the outside world. For that reason, we offer a comprehensive treatment plan that includes aftercare to help our clients stay on track during this sensitive period.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, contact us at our Lancaster, California facility today. One of our staff members will be happy to answer your questions and recommend a treatment solution for your specific needs.