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For our educational series, TAM friend Lyle Fried of The Shores has compiled this very useful information for our members. As always, if you have further questions for Lyle, please PM Sherry Schlenke.
Relapse Prevention for your loved ones when they are home.
With the holiday season upon us, many people in recovery will be leaving treatment or their sober living environments to visit with family. There are many triggers when the person in recovery returns home. For that reason, this is a time of higher-than-average relapse; we want to be proactive in prevention. Knowing the signs and having a plan to deal with them BEFORE there is actual drug use can literally be a lifesaver.
Signs of impending relapse can include old behaviors that resurface. This can be as vague as “having an attitude,” to as specific as associating with certain people, or missing meetings. Dysfunctional behaviors may return. It is important to identify the potential warning signs of a relapse and have the person in recovery agree to be held accountable.
Addiction experts have developed a checklist of areas of concern, and signs that your loved one has relapsed.
One area is the schedule. Many people will try to “outrun” their addiction, for example, being too busy, or over-working, as in a workaholic. Not having a schedule at all is also problematic because of a lack of purpose and having too much free time.
Forgetting priorities such as meetings, breaking promises/commitments, neglecting loved ones, and spending too much time on mindless entertainment like TV and computer games can be a sign of relapse. Too much or not enough sleep ,and lapses in self-care/hygiene are also warning signs for a relapse.
Included in the schedule are meals. A warning sign is skipping meals or binge-eating. There could be digestive issues, or unexplained weight gain or loss.
Another area is emotions, with anxiety and depression being among the more prevalent. Emotions can vary greatly and may be expressed as excessive worry, fear, resentments, negative thinking, perfectionism, judging others, obsession with a relationship, anger outbursts, self-pity, being overly defensive, and dramatic mood swings that could include pessimism and depression. They may feel overwhelmed and cry for “no reason.” They want to avoid situations rather than face them. Think about your words when helping someone realize that they are exhibiting the warning signs of a relapse. Be as non-judgemental as possible.
Find someone to be an accountability partner for the person in recovery. The two should meet in advance of the holiday and discuss not only the warning signs, but how the signs will be addressed.
Perhaps try to have the person in recovery sign a written agreement. One idea is an “Accountability Card” that has the list of behaviors/warning signs on one side and a signed agreement on the other side. Both the person in recovery and the accountability partner should keep a copy. If the relapse is probable, steps must be taken such as meetings, therapy, or any strategy that has worked in the past to prevent drug use.