Twelve Relapse Warning Signs

  1. The alcoholic or substance abuser may return to denial of dependency on alcohol or other substances. It is accompanied by convincing others things are OK and attempting to cover up problems.
  2. Depression begins to return accompanied by low energy. Such depression seems to get deeper as loneliness sets in. Sometimes suicidal thoughts occur and all help is rejected.
  3. Feeling there is nowhere to turn and no way to solve any problem it is common to imagine unreal solutions. The former patient avoids communicating with others.
  4. The former patient begins to feel that alcohol or drug use is the only way to feel better. It becomes easy to think of drinking or drug use as a solution and the logical thing to do. I’d rather be drunk than be like this, is a common theme.
  5. Compulsions are regenerated and dragged back for consideration. These can involve sex, food, intense work, too much caffeine or even involvement in gambling. These soon reach out of control levels that are very clear to the individual.
  6. One or more of the following problems begin to return: emotional reaction, poor sleeping habits, memory lapses, simple accidents become frequent, sensitivity to stressful events and inappropriate anger.
  7. Attendance at self-help groups falls into neglect. Telephone calls from others who are active in their recovery are ignored and messages are not returned. Opinions of friends and family are discounted and angry responses are frequent.
  8. Ordinary, every day situations become too complex to handle. Things once considered of minimal importance grow to excessive levels of concern.
  9. Alcohol and/or drugs become important again as a topic. Ideas creep in such as: Why can’t I be like everybody else. Why can’t I have a couple of beers after work? This is accompanied by feelings of loss and sadness as a failure in life.
  10. Impulsive decisions become common practice. Logical patterns of behavior are not given proper consideration. There is no desire to share with others in reaching conclusions about important mutual interests.
  11. Even though it’s clear the recovering person is now on a dangerous pathway there is no interest in confronting the old signs and behavior so much a part of alcoholism or drug dependency. A familiar phrase from the past returns in full bloom: I’d rather do it myself is once again the rule.
  12. When and if relapse sets in it’s followed by a conviction that some bottom must be reached and as long as a relapse has occurred it should be enjoyed to the fullest. As this progresses all life’s problems accumulate and get worse.

When and if any of these warning signs come to the attention of the alcoholic or addict then immediate action should be taken. If a former patient in a addiction treatment program then that facility should be contacted. If a member of a self-help group recognizes any of these conditions then a call should be made to a sponsor or friend in the fellowship. A well known suggestion applies immediately: DO NOT TAKE THE FIRST DRINK OR DRUG!