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How Do I Know If I Had A Relapse?

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In recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism, there is always a threat of relapse if an addict or alcoholic is not taking care of themselves and working a program of recovery. Many addicts and alcoholics do not even know when they are on the verge of relapse. If an individual is in the rooms long enough, there will be any number of reasons why a person has relapsed: “I stopped going to 12 step meetings"; “I stopped talking to my sponsor”; “I didn’t do/apply my 12 steps”; among numerous other possible responses. To understand relapse, one has to know what a relapse is first and how it affects the addict and alcoholic.

Definition Of A Relapse

  • The act or an instance of backsliding, worsening, or subsiding.
  • A recurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement.

Picking up alcohol or drugs is actually the last part of a relapse; there are many factors that precede the first drink or drug. Since drug addiction and alcoholism is considered a mental disease, the signs and symptoms are very much displayed behaviorally. Unlike diseases such as cancer, where relapse can be identified by certain medical tests, there is no blood work or test that can be used or analyzed to determine if the person is heading for a relapse. The only way to know for sure is when they pick up drinking and drugging again. There are many individuals that are able to catch themselves before they pick up because the pain was great enough to move in a different direction. This is where pain can be a great motivator when properly implemented into ones recovery. Self-pity vs. I’m hurt, are two very different states of mind.

Signs & Symptoms Of A Relapse

Self-destructive behavior

Denial – “I can have just one”

Overly confident – “I will never use again, ever!”

Defensive attitude

Compulsive behavior

Impulsive behavior

Lack of balance in life


Delusional thinking


Constant need for attention

Angers quickly or easily irritated

Careless behaviors


Self- pity and lack of gratitude

Feeling of helplessness, powerlessness


Loss of or even a lack of self confidence

Overly sensitive and easily frustrated

Overwhelming feelings of guilt and remorse

Blames others

Loses interest in self-care

Irregular eating habits and sleeping habits

Unaccountable and irresponsible

How Do I Know If I Have Relapsed On Drugs Or Alcohol?

Those who have suffered a relapse know how devastating the effects can be. Sometimes they are fully aware and are making a conscious choice to relapse; other times, they are oblivious until it actually happens. This is why the disease of addiction and alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful. One thing is for sure in understanding a relapse: if our motives are pure and our intentions were not to pick up, then a relapse has not occurred.

If an addict or alcoholic has taken a medication that was distributed medically, absolutely necessary, and the person in recovery has no impure motive to get high, then it is not a relapse. If the alcoholic picks up a drink at the party and takes a quick sip mistaking it for their ginger ale, than it’s not a relapse. What we do after those encounters will shape our recovery. If we are honest, talk with our support, discuss with our sponsor, and make sure we take every effort to put a program of recovery first, the threat of a relapse will be greatly reduced. What we do with our program of recovery is contingent upon the actions we take.  Recovery is a journey and not a destination; the addict and alcoholic usually knows in their heart-of-hearts if they have experienced a true relapse. Knowing the difference could save a life.

If you think you are on the verge of a relapse,  or are unsure if you have experienced a relapse, please contact our 24 hour helpline for more information on addiction and relapses: 1-800-861-1768.

If you have had an experience with relapsing, please comment below or visit us on Facebook and share your story now. 

Written By: Watershed Ashling

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