Relapse often tends to be a part of early recovery. As unwanted as relapse is, it’s usually quite common. Relapse is not something that randomly chases you, but rather something that happens if you stop working a program of recovery. Relapse triggers can vary from locations and activities to people and emotions.
So what are the most common signs of a relapse?
1. Behavioral patterns
The addict lies about various things. The addict will deny having relapsed and will try to cover it up with a bouquet of imaginary explanations. The fear of being exposed and the self-denial of the relapse have a sort of a paralytic effect on the user’s ability to think straight — often preventing him from opening up to people who care and can help. Physical symptoms (caused by a relapse) are usually attributed to a flu or bout of food poisoning. In many cases, the lie about the relapse can be uncovered when the person is either busted using or is left penniless.
The addict stops attending support groups. Upon a relapse, there usually comes a huge disappointment from either a support group or a mentor/sponsor/therapist. An addict will often assume that these solutions are not working for her. If he belongs to a 12-step program, he will sometimes cease to see the benefits of these programs — as each failure makes the group seem less and less effective.
The addict locks himself up in his personal space. Through limiting himself from the world, the addict manifests his feelings of being lonely, misunderstood, and lost in life. If no support group is utilized, it can grow into feelings of depression and make the addict reject any help from the outside world.
The addict goes on reconnecting with his old using mates. Often, the reason for relapse can be as banal as the attempt of “social drinking” (casual drinking of alcoholic beverages in a social setting without an intent to become intoxicated) in a false hope of learning to control the urge to control one’s drinking. But, most often, a relapsing addict would seek out her old drinking buddies since they are perceived as the only ones who can truly understand.
2. Physical signs:
Upset stomach – it occurs due to the excessive amounts of alcohol “poured” into the body of an addict in lieu of actual meals. Alcohol replaces the main meals of the day, followed by a bunch of fast food snacks (such as chips, peanuts, crackers, etc.), the consumption of both interfering with regular digestive processes and causing the inflammation of the gastrointestinal act and the excessive amounts of gastric acid produced in the stomach. All that, when extended to days or weeks, leads to constant diarrhea, inability to consume or digest solid foods and even stomach ulcer (in the cases of prolonged abuse or frequently repeated relapses).
Fatigue or general muscle weakness – it is caused by the alcohol-inflicted lack of good sleep (in some cases – insomnia or nightmares) and by being short of fluids (like water) in the body. The excessive loss of water happens through sweating, urine, vomiting and breathing, accordingly causing the rapid drop in the body weight (since approximately 60% of body weight is water). It is usually followed by higher blood pressure, the increase in the body temperature, headaches, blurred vision and the inability to properly regulate the body motions.
Sleepiness - short and random naps prevail as a result of the alcoholic influence on the centers in the brain which regulate the sleep. First of all, alcohol consumption prolongs the amount of time that the person needs to fall asleep (which causes irritability); secondly, alcohol has disruptive effect on night sleep, making it impossible to get so-called “full re-charge” at night; thirdly, the resulting feeling of fatigue during the daytime results in on-and-off naps.
3. Emotional signs:
Anger – the strongest feeling operating an addict would be the one of resentment. Over-edge dissatisfaction with everything what’s going on around the addict and the feeling of “nothing going my way” often steam from the hidden and misunderstood self-disappointment. As a result, anger-expressing episodes become very frequent, both towards oneself and towards the people around (very often over tiny things that don’t even really matter).
Intolerance – the refusal to accept help or simply answer a “How are you?” question from a friend also becomes very frequent and goes along with the refusal to compromise and accept any other ideas but your own. Also, the defensive mechanisms go over the roof, causing a harsh hostile response to any idea or criticism. Such is, as a rule, followed by the addict getting easily offended and shutting out the people around him\her (avoiding answering any personal questions, not responding to calls, refusing to let them upon the visit, social media blocking, disappearing for days\weeks with no notice, etc.)
Mood swings – the addicts lose control over how they feel, how frequently their feelings change and how much their feeling\perception about the same issue or person differs within a set period of time. Mood swings can even happen within hours or minutes. Not having control over such causes fear and the false hope of alcohol or any other drug to fix the problem. Abused substances might give a very short-term feeling of control over mood swings, but, in fact, their constant consumption only makes matters worse.