10 Signs of Relapse in Your Loved One

10 Signs of Relapse in Your Loved One

In the context of alcohol and drugs, a relapse indicates the return to a given substance following a non-negligible period of sobriety. A relapse can be particularly traumatic, not just for the patient but for his or her loved ones and friends as well, especially if it takes place after completing rehabilitation. However, just as failure can be a prerequisite for long-term success in other contexts, a relapse or even multiple relapses can be a standard part of recovery. Despite this, if you notice any warning signs either in yourself or in someone close to you, immediate action should be taken to prevent any further negative effects to the patient’s finances, job, family, friends and, most importantly, health.

Warning Signs in Recovery

A red flag that reads "10 warnings." When a loved one is in recovery, there are many warning signs to watch out for to keep yourself or another on the right track. In some cases, these signs will be on the surface but in others, he or she will hide them from sight so they can resume old habits without alerting others to their fall from grace. Former substance abusers might be ashamed of having relapsed, which will only make the situation worse. It’s your responsibility to stay on top of someone close to you who’s in recovery, particularly if they’re in an early stage. [1]

Top 10 Warnings Signs of Substance Abuse Relapse

1. Theft or asking to borrow money

Vector image of a hand with a dollar sign on top. Unexpected and repeated requests to borrow money is a strong indicator of money problems or financial irresponsibility, a standard behavior of substance abusers, as they prioritize appeasing their substance habit in the short-term over long-term relationships and health. This can also take the form of items missing from your home, including electronics, jewelry, furniture, clothing, etc.

2. Changes in physical appearance

Vector image of a person looking in the mirror. Drug and alcohol abuse quickly becomes the top priority in an abuser’s life, taking a toll on healthy, daily routines having to do with hygiene and appearance. These changes don’t only manifest themselves in the individual but in his or her living space as well.


3. Compulsive behaviors

Vector image of a person smoking a cigarette.Unfortunately for some, getting addicted to substances or certain behaviors is just a part of who they are. Whether they have managed to remain clean or not, any activities that give them a small amount of pleasure can eventually dominate them and become automatic even after they’ve stopped enjoying said activities.


4. Denial or defensiveness

Vector image of a person putting covering their ears. Approaching a loved one or friend about his or her secretive behavior that you suspect is related to substance abuse can be one of the hardest things that you ever do. What makes it even more difficult is his or her outright denial or defensiveness towards your concerns. Bear in mind that substance abusers often do not have their own best interests at heart and wouldn’t know help if it looked them in the eye.

5. Impulsiveness

Vector image of a person's head and brain. Any rash actions, especially those that seem out of character, could be caused by a return to alcohol or drug abuse.



6. Mischaracterization of old habits

Vector image of a 360 cycle.Any understating or glorifying of former ways can indicate a disconnect from reality resulting from a recent return to drug or alcohol use after a period of sobriety.



7. Missing meetings, therapy and outpatient sessions

Vector image of an alarm clock. Putting distance between you and your support system, including loved ones, friends, support groups and professional help, illustrates a breach between what substance abusers know is best for them and what they would rather do instead, a trademark of substance abuse.


8. Returning to former contacts

Vector image of three people standing side by side. An essential part of any former substance abuser’s recovery is severing ties with old friends and acquaintances associated with alcohol or drug use. Reconnecting with any of these individuals not only increases the risk of relapse but can also indicate that a relapse has already taken place.


9. Sudden mood changes

Vector image of a sad face. A life of indulgence, led by those in the early stages of substance abuse or a recent relapse, is typically marked by the inability to deal with or the sheer avoidance of negative stimulus. A rebound often entails disproportionate emotional responses to irritation, conflict, dissent, etc.


10. Unrealistic expectations

Vector image of a person's whose head is in the clouds. Having become accustomed to their success with sobriety, many of those in recovery forget how difficult it was to get clean in the first place and lower their guard to temptations. Underestimating your addiction and assuming that you can revisit old habits and then freely return to sobriety is a grave mistake. This idealistic behavior is a sign of the same disconnect from reality present in active substance abusers.


Picture of a man and woman enjoying a hike. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, keeping an eye on these 10 criteria will manage to keep relapse at bay for the most part. However, to achieve a long-term recovery, maintaining a strong defense isn’t enough. You also must present a strong offense, including attending meetings for those recovering from your substance of choice, pursuing friendships with others at those meetings, and filling your extra time with healthy habits such as exercise, hobbies, and/or spending time with friends and family.[2]


If you or someone you know is in the process of making a recovery from substance abuse and the significant threat of relapse is still in play, Unity Behavioral Health can help. We are a comprehensive recovery center located in scenic North Palm Beach, FL, specializing in drug and alcohol dependence, mental illness and dual diagnosis. Get in touch when you’re ready to learn more.