Recovering from alcohol abuse can be a long journey. And along that road, many obstacles may appear. The reality is that relapses are an ever-present risk to those living life in recovery, even if they are staunch in the abstinence from substance use. Not every hurdle will be cleared with ease.
According to a 2014 study from researchers in the Netherlands, nearly 6% of people relapse with alcohol after five years. Around 9% relapse within 10 years, and 12% within 20 years. A relapse does not mean the end of recovery, but it can be a setback. If you're worried about a loved one or yourself, look for these four signs that may lead to relapse:
1. Increased stress
Stress is among the most common — and most powerful — relapse triggers. Many turn to substances in the first place as a way to cope with stress, so living an alcohol-free life among increasingly stressful conditions can be difficult. Stress can come from a variety of sources, which makes it all the most challenging to address. Family tensions can contribute to stress, as can a hectic work schedule or personal life troubles.
2. Reminiscing about drinking
If stress like that is present, some may think longingly about their previous drinking. A throwaway line like "wish I could have a drink right about now" may be laughed off, but it could also be a red flag. It should be cause for alarm if you ever hear yourself or another say something to that effect, even if said in jest. The romanticizing of drinking or attached nostalgia can reverse the work done to refocus alcohol as a harmful substance and overall detriment to life.
3. Recent trauma
One devastating event might upend years of sobriety. The loss of a loved one and the associated grief can easily lead to relapse, for example. Other traumas can strain personal resolve, like car accidents or harrowing experiences (like an active shooter situation). When people are pushed to such extremes, the easiest relief may seem to be a drink. If you or someone you know undergoes a trauma, be sure to be especially vigilant in recognizing the risk for relapse.
4. Social withdrawal
Nobody can beat alcohol abuse on their own, which can make it particularly distressing if someone begins to withdraw socially. This is so for a couple of reasons:
- It can cut off support. Actively keeping up with sponsors, friends and family can keep an individual focused on their recovery and increase their self-esteem or determination.
- It can signal resumption of drinking. Relapse can often lead to feelings of shame or guilt, which then cause some to avoid social settings or their loved ones.
Isolation can be damaging, so it's important to keep an eye on your own behavior, as well as that of others, to ensure the danger can be mitigated.
Beating an alcohol use disorder is an involved and long-term effort, and not every relapse will mean the end of recovery. If you or a loved one needs help, contact Fairwinds Treatment Center today.