6 Indicators Preceding a Relapse

Returning to real life from rehab is rife with challenges.  Addicts must essentially learn to live again.  As with any illness, looking for warning signs prior to a relapse is critical for recovery.  It is important to remember that substance use disorders are real illnesses with symptoms and signs, just like diabetes, asthma and other illnesses.  Learning to look for signs and symptoms can help addicts stay away from relapse.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse, call 888-414-2380 (Who Answers?) for treatment support.

1. Irritability

One of the first signs of relapse for those in early recovery is irritability.  A clean and sober life can be difficult to navigate when your primary mode of coping has been to get drunk or high. In everyone’s life, stressful events are bound to occur.  Becoming instantly irritated when challenges arise can be a danger sign.  Looking for ways to cope with agitation is important for people early in recovery.

2. Thought Patterns


Negative thought patterns can lead to relapse.

Just as diabetics monitor their sugar levels, addicts must monitor their thought processes.  12-step programs allow people to examine their motives, desires and behaviors, which ultimately led to drinking and using.  Negative thought patterns can be indicative of a pending relapse.  Some include:

  • Self-pity
  • Resentment
  • Morbid reflection over past events
  • Worry about the future
  • Fixating on other people’s behaviors

Missing Meetings

Coming out of rehab, the life of an addict must change.  Some people find comfort in working a 12-step program, while others seek greater religious connection.  Still others choose ongoing out-patient therapy for continued recovery.

Regardless of the method of ongoing addiction treatment you choose, receiving some sort of ongoing treatment is necessary for long-term recovery.  People who attend meetings of some type are more likely to sustain lasting recovery than those who don’t.  Missing meetings is a sure sign that relapse may be on the horizon.

Avoiding People in Recovery

When you graduate from rehab, most counselors recommend staying in tight communication with others in recovery.  Whether you are attending an outpatient group with some of the same people from your in-patient rehab facility, or you have found support in another type of meeting, having a circle of recovery friends is critical.

Other addicts have an understanding of addiction that non-addicts cannot have.  Thus, if you find yourself avoiding your sponsor, or other people in recovery, trouble in the form of a relapse may be brewing.

7 Things to Avoid in Addiction Recovery

Using Other Chemicals, Substances or Behaviors

Another extremely risky practice is using other chemicals or substituting addictive behaviors.  For example, a meth user may not think drinking alcohol would be a problem.  However, on occasions too often to mention, substituting one chemical for another can eventually lead straight back to using the identified problem substance.

You may find yourself substituting other obsessive behaviors as well.  Some of the following are dangerous substitutions that could lead to relapse:

  • Overeating
  • Sexual obsessions
  • Gambling
  • Shopping
  • Exercise

Making Excuses

Another serious warning sign that relapse may be looming is excuse-making.  If you find yourself making excuses to others about your choices and behaviors, you may be at risk of relapse.  More dangerous than offering feeble explanations to family and friends, however, is trying to convince yourself that your behavior is acceptable.  Looking the truth in the face is a requirement of recovery, without excuses or blame.

Call for Help

Substance abuse recovery does get easier as time goes along.  Knowing which warning signs lead to relapse is important to intervening early.  For any questions or concerns about a personal recovery path, call 888-414-2380 (Who Answers?) today to consult about whether you might be in danger of relapse.  You owe it to yourself to continue seeking a positive, addiction-free life.


AA (1983).  Questions and answers on Sponsorship.  Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Retrieved on March 26, 2017 from:  http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/p-15_Q&AonSpon.pdf

Krentzman, A., Robinson, E., Moore, B., Kelly, J., et al. (2011). How Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous work:  Cross disciplinary perspectives. Alcohol Treatment Quarterly. 29(1): 75-84. Retrieved on March 26, 2017 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140338/