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What Are The Main Warning Signs That A Loved One Has Relapsed?

They had been doing so well, or at least you thought that was the case. You watched as they pulled themselves out of the trenches of addiction, and you cheered every new milestone they reached. Their recovery momentum seemed strong, and you felt like things were finally headed in the right direction.

But now, you aren't so sure about their progress. Something doesn't feel quite right, but you're unsure if your intuition tells you something or if you're just anxious and overreacting.

Of course, everyone is different, but it's still important to understand what to look out for when a loved one has relapsed. Let's get into the main warning signs.


When you share your concerns about their behavioral changes, how do they react? Are they empathic and understanding of your fears? Or do they become angry and dismissive? Do they accuse you of always assuming the worst?

If a loved one has relapsed, defensiveness often becomes the automatic response for self-preservation. They don't want to hurt you, so they attempt to lie or manipulate the situation to convince you that everything is fine.

The defensiveness often results from shame. They're embarrassed about what happened, they're worried about your rejection, and they don't know how to accept this intense vulnerability.

In a healthy, working recovery, people tend to be honest and forthcoming with their intentions. But if a loved one has relapsed, defensiveness may become a survival stance.

Financial Problems

Are they asking you to help with rent this month? Did they lose their job, but won't give much of an explanation as to why? Are they suddenly accruing massive credit card bills?

Money issues are one of the main warning signs of relapse. Regardless of the particular drug of choice, serious addiction can be expensive. Subsequently, many people forgo paying necessary bills, such as rent, utilities, or car payments, leading to more compounded problems.

You may notice this issue through direct interactions (i.e., they ask you for cash) or through more insidious forms, such as stealing from you, excessively gambling, or engaging in other dangerous tactics to make money.

Impulsive Behavior

Surprise! They're moving across the country. They're getting married. They're starting a business!

Impulsive behaviors may indicate a relapse, as these actions are closely correlated with drug use. These sudden actions may indicate that your loved one is either under the influence or newly sober and trying desperately to get things back on track.

In recovery, most people naturally become more methodical and intentional with their behavior. They start recognizing the pitfalls of making decisions without critical thought. As a result, they tend to start planning and organizing their lives more than they once did.

But addiction can throw this common sense out the window. When someone is under the influence, their judgment and cognitive processing skills can become completely compromised. They may resort to quick fixes and extreme responses, which results in a life that feels chaotic.

Spending Time With Old Friends or Reengaging in Old Habits

Is your loved one suddenly hanging out with old friends or partners? Are they spending time at places where they used to drink or use drugs? If so, they might have relapsed- or they're close to it.

While it may be possible to enjoy some old relationships or habits, true recovery often requires people to change their lives. After all, they must do what they can to reduce the likelihood of struggling with specific triggers. Usually, this entails letting go of certain people, places, or things.

The opposite can also be true. If someone starts reengaging in former habits, it could be a sign that they're struggling.

Denying, Downplaying, or Joking About Using Behavior

If your loved one has relapsed, you might be able to tell by their shift in attitude about recovery. For example, they might make fun of people for choosing sobriety. They may make snarky comments about meetings feeling like cults or therapy being a complete waste of time.

It's okay to change of heart about different recovery methods. But if the pessimism or sarcasm seems to emerge from nowhere, this could be a relapse warning sign.

Your Loved One Has Relapsed. Now What?

You've had your suspicioous, and now your worst nightmare has been confirmed. Your loved one has relapsed, and you're not sure what to do next.

First, take a few deep breaths. Relapse can be an integral part of the recovery process, even if it scares or angers you. This isn't your fault, and it doesn't mean your loved one is doomed.

At The Resurface Group, we support individuals and their families recovering from addiction. We understand all the obstacles someone might face in their journey, and we're here to help people new ways to cope with them. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

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