Medically Reviewed

7 Warning Signs of Relapse

- 8 sections

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

For most people, relapse is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. First, you might start struggling emotionally. Then, your mental health will begin to suffer. The physical relapse where you actually pick up drugs or alcohol comes last. As a result, it’s important to be able to identify the warning signs of relapse so you can intervene promptly and protect your sobriety.

Here are 7 signs your sobriety may be in jeopardy.

1. You Aren’t Going to Your Recovery Meetings

One tell-tale sign that you’re on your way to relapse is that you’ve quit going to your recovery meetings. It doesn’t matter if you are doing Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), SMART Recovery, or any other recovery group – you should be going to your meetings regularly.

Meetings help you stay connected with your peers, gain support, and remember where you came from. If you begin to forget the despair you felt in your addiction, you may stop valuing the life you have in recovery. You may even bargain with yourself and begin thinking you’re not an addict or alcoholic.

One of the best ways to prevent relapse is to stay involved in the recovery community and participate in meetings. If this is something you aren’t doing, you may have a relapse coming your way.

2. You Often Feel Unfulfilled, Depressed, Unmotivated, or Anxious

Relapse can be broken down into three stages: emotional, mental, and physical. This means before you actually pick up a drink or a drug, you will have emotional and mental symptoms that indicate relapse first.

If you frequently feel depressed, unmotivated, empty, or irritable, it could be a warning sign of relapse. While all of these emotions are normal to feel in early recovery, it’s vital that you learn to cope with them and find other ways to get joy out of life besides drugs and alcohol.

Also, if you feel this way more often than not, it’s a good idea to talk to a therapist. He or she can make direct suggestions based on your situation or help you get on medication to manage your symptoms.

3. You’re Having Cravings for Drugs and/or Alcohol

While it’s normal to have cravings every once in a while, especially in early recovery, it is abnormal if you begin obsessing over these cravings. It is even more dangerous if you begin planning a relapse in your head or bargaining with yourself to come up with a “safe” way to use drugs or alcohol.

If you’re having cravings, you may be in the mental stage of relapse. And, since you haven’t picked up a drink or a drug yet, this is a good time to reach out to a trusted friend and let them know how you are feeling.

Everyone in recovery experiences cravings, so it’s important to learn how to cope with them. By confiding in a trusted friend, you can get these thoughts off your mind and find ways to move past these destructive thoughts.

4. You’re Isolating From Those You Love

Addiction is often referred to as a disease of isolation. It can make you push away your friends and family. However, you can push people away in recovery, too – especially if you are on the road to relapse.

There may be many reasons for your isolation. You could be depressed or you could be trying to hide poor behaviors and habits from the people who care about you. Whatever the case may be, isolation is dangerous for mental health and for recovery.

If you want to stay sober and avoid relapse, it is critical that you stay connected to your support group. The times when you feel like isolating are when you need support the most.

5. You’re Abandoning Structure and Your Responsibilities

In addition to neglecting your relationships, another warning sign of relapse is abandoning structure and responsibilities. This could mean a variety of things. It could mean your sleep schedule is thrown off, you have stopped putting in effort at work, you have stopped taking care of yourself, or you have let your house become a mess.

While these may simply sound like laziness, they could indicate a deeper emotional or mental issue. It could also indicate that you’re on the road to relapse.

6. You’re Romanticizing Your Past Substance Abuse

Thinking about using substances or cravings for drugs and alcohol and romanticizing substance abuse are two completely different things. Romanticizing comes after the initial craving and refers to thoughts that reflect on the times you had fun while under the influence. Or, you could be focusing on the way substances make you feel or the benefits you would gain from getting high.

Romanticizing past drug or alcohol use is extremely dangerous. It may indicate that you have forgotten the pain and despair that got you where you are in the first place. If you don’t ask for help and intervene, your lustful thoughts of substance abuse could become a devastating reality.

7. Your Friends and Family are Concerned About You

When something is wrong, the people closest to you will likely be the first to notice. Your friends and family may have noticed that you are neglecting your responsibilities, not going to meetings, isolating yourself at home, or struggling with your mental health.

If the people who care about you the most are concerned about your well-being, that is a sign that you should be, too.

Find Help for Addiction and Learn to Prevent Relapse Today

Whether you have already relapsed or you feel as though you are going to in the future, PAX Memphis is here to help. With a full continuum of care and sober living homes in the area, we have the resources you need to stay accountable and prevent relapse.

Relapse doesn’t have to be part of your recovery. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or want to learn more about our addiction treatment programs, give us a call today.