For parents, partners, and anyone who is looking for signs of addiction relapse in their loved one, there are some signs you can look for.
Anytime someone has a drastic change in their norm or their behavior, it means that something happened. It may not always mean that there’s a relapse – it could be their depression getting worse, or maybe that person went through a life transition, but a lot of times, change in behavior is similar to reading a roadmap. Behaviors don’t change for no reason.
Another sign to look for is if someone is having shifts in mood, specifically rapid shifts in mood. If they’re really irritable one time and then you see them a few minutes in a really joyful mood within an hour or two hours, that’s usually a sign of addiction relapse.
Another important sign to look for is changes in physical appearance. What a person looks like on the outside is a reflection of how they are feeling on the inside. Change in physical appearance may not necessarily be a sign of relapse, but if someone’s really depressed they may not be taking care of their wellbeing, they may not have showered in a long time, their hair might be really knotty, and other visible signs.
Some signs of substance abuse show on their faces because many times people stop eating properly when they are using drugs, and therefore they are not getting the nutrients their bodies need. You may notice overall weight changes that happen suddenly and quickly.
One of the biggest signs of relapse may be isolation. Addiction breeds in isolation so if we notice that there’s less connection with family or friends or their support network, if the person stops going to their 12-step meetings or engaging with their sponsor, or they are not showing up to work when they’re normally a reliable person, or not showing up to school, or getting the grades that they used to, those can be some indicators that there’s something going on with that person.
Changes in sleep patterns is one of the common signs of relapse. People using substances aren’t sleeping at all because they’re up on stimulants, or they’re sleeping too much.
Prelapse is a phase where the signs and symptoms start showing before the physical relapse happens. When there are signs of prelapse, oftentimes a relapse is inevitable unless there is some type of awareness and intervention that happens at that moment. Family members have one unique advantage to people who don’t know the individual because they already saw their loved one in their addicted state for months or years. So when they notice their loved one starting to do things, say things, behave in ways, hang out with people, or have certain behaviors in the past that existed when they were using, it shows that they potentially are back closer to that realm than they are to the opposite realm.
Seize the relapse as part of the recovery and growth process. It is natural for the family of substance users to be riddled with fear about every decision their loved one makes. Remembering that relapse does happen in the recovery process, it is important to simply go back to the basics. Whatever worked in their recovery before might work again. It is a difficult and challenging journey to go back to ground zero and start building forward from there again, but it is possible. If an individual does relapse, and if they’re able to survive it, it can actually help them get to a deeper level of recovery.
No one, not even the best clinicians and therapists, can predict the future of an individual’s relapse, because each person is on their own journey. Therefore there is always a risk of vulnerability of not knowing what may happen to their loved one. However, what one can do is to start taking care of themselves first. If their loved one is able to stay clean and sober, that’s wonderful. But even if they are not, it is important to not lose oneself in the process of looking out for their loved one.
Kelsey carries multiple years of experience working in the substance abuse and mental health treatment field. Her passion for this field comes from her personally knowing recovery from addiction.
Prior to Buckeye she held titles of Recovery Coach, Operations Director, and Admissions Director. Kelsey was brought on at Buckeye Recovery as the Director of Business Development. She has a passion for ensuring every individual gets the help that they need, and does so by developing relationships with other providers.
Kelsey also oversees our women’s sober living environments – The Chadwick House for Women. She is committed to creating a safe, nurturing, and conducive environment for all women that walk through the doors of Chadwick.