Recovery from addiction is a lifelong journey. It does not simply end when a person quits drugs, nor does it stop upon the completion of a drug treatment program. Recovery is an ongoing endeavor that requires great patience, commitment, and optimism.
Unfortunately, the road to recovery often gets disrupted. The National Institute on Drug Abuse predicts that approximately 40 to 60 percent of drug addicts will eventually have a substance abuse relapse.
To those in recovery, a relapse will feel random. It will feel impulsive, sudden, and come without warning. For those individuals, all of these feelings may be true. But as addiction professionals, we believe that pending relapse often stirs long before drugs or alcohol are consumed.
The good news is that, for this very reason, relapse is preventable. If your loved one has been through professional addiction treatment and is back home again, there are precautions you can take to keep a relapse from becoming a part of his or her story. At this time, one of the most important things you can do is learn how to identify the signs of relapse, should they ever occur.
Understanding the early signs of relapse will keep your loved one from falling back into the addiction cycle and keep a relapse from spiraling out of control. If you believe your son or daughter is heading for relapse, look for these five warning signs.
1.)The person has stopped his or her initiatives to stay sober. As a parent, you are constantly trying to encourage your teen to keep up healthy, sober habits. Your child, however, may start believing he or she no longer needs help. This is the first sign or trigger of an impending relapse. Your teen may stop going to 12-step meetings, counseling sessions, or support groups. You may notice that your child no longer keeps a journal or calls friends from his or her treatment program. The reasons for stopping recovery efforts could be tied to overconfidence, loss of interest or loss of faith in a long-term treatment plan.
2.)The person starts reminiscing about the “good days” of substance use. You may catch your teen romanticizing memories of drug use, parties, old friends or hangouts. If your child is exhibiting this sign of relapse, it is likely he or she only remembers the good times associated with drugs. Yet memories can play tricks on us. Odds are, your teen has pushed aside the negative aspects and consequences of drug use that had piled up.
As a parent, it is important to remind your child that he or she went to rehab for a reason. Your teen got sober for a reason. Reiterate to your teen the negative impact that drug use has on an individual’s health, finances, and personal life. Show your teen that there is great goodness in recovery. Ask your teen what makes him happiest now that he’s sober.
3.)The person believes he or she can have one dose, one hit, one sip of a drug without hurting the recovery process. One of the most obvious signs of relapse is when an individual starts seeing one taste of a drug or alcohol as acceptable. At this time, your teen may be convincing him or herself that this time will be different; that he or she already beat addiction; that one small pill won’t impact the recovery process. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In days or weeks, your teen could rapidly fall back to the same place he worked so hard to leave behind. Remind your teen that addiction is a chronic disease, and that it takes commitment, strength, and patience to overcome.
4.)The person develops negative feelings towards their recovery. If your teen’s behavior starts to turn sour, be aware. Acting selfish, moody, defensive, or depressed are signs of impending relapse. This behavior will mimic the conduct your teen had when using, and may look familiar to you as a parent. Your teen may:
Tell you to mind your own business
Become easily frustrated
Take things very personally
Deny any problems that arise in recovery
Often, recovering teens will develop strong defense mechanisms to try to hide their inclination towards drugs. They will consistently deny the fact that they are moving closer towards drug use again, both to you and to themselves.
5.)The person becomes isolated. Loneliness, isolation, and social withdrawal are tell-tale signs of drug relapse. If your teen has started to pull away from healthy friend groups, family, or even stopped reaching out to his sober network, take note. Teens and young adults who are heading for relapse tend to break bonds with the people that support their sobriety most. After cutting ties, they may start lying, hiding, or acting dishonestly to avoid giving a true explanation.
Relapse in adolescents and young adults most commonly occurs when these warning signs are ignored. Young people tend to believe that being abstinent means recovered. They often delude themselves that there is nothing to worry about and fail to recognize the clear warning signs of relapse. It is our job as parents, educators, and addiction professionals to help our youth understand the disease of addiction. We can help them make healthy choices and determine the right measures for a successful recovery.
Remember, relapse does not mean your child has failed. While you may be feeling great sadness or disappointment, know that recovery for your child is still achievable, and you should not lose hope in addiction treatment. If you see any of these signs of relapse in your child, do not hesitate to call Turnbridge’s residential drug rehab center at 877-581-1793. Your teen’s relapse may indicate that his or her treatment plan needs adjusting.