8 Signs of Alcohol Relapse

How to know if a loved one with alcoholism is drinking again

Are you wondering whether or not a friend or family member with alcoholism has relapsed? If you have your suspicions that someone you care about might be drinking again, it is important not to approach them about the issue unless you are absolutely certain. If you accuse someone in recovery of relapsing when they haven’t, it can lead to complications both in the relationship and in your loved one’s recovery journey. Therefore, it’s imperative for people who have connections with people in substance abuse recovery to understand the triggers, causes, symptoms, and signs of alcohol relapse before jumping to conclusions or making assumptions.

What Is Alcohol Relapse?

Alcoholism is a disorder that, like other chronic health conditions, can be very difficult to beat. Overcoming this disease takes a long time and a lot of hard work. It is very common for people in the recovery process to slide back into addictive thoughts and behaviors, or relapse, at some point. Many people who work to become sober end up relapsing at least once during their journey; but this does not mean that they failed or that they are unsuccessful. Instead, it simply means that they’re having a tough time battling alcoholism and could use a little extra support.

A common misconception about relapse is that it is an action that happens once (for example, a recovering alcoholic having a sip of one drink on a night out), when it is actually a slow process that begins long before a person starts using again. Someone’s feelings, attitudes, and behaviors regarding recovery may begin to change months before they actually have a drink. Relapse comes with varying and ever-changing emotional, mental, and physical components.

Triggers & Causes of Alcohol Relapse

Alcohol relapse can be triggered by plenty of different factors. These risk factors can come from anywhere and affect an individual in any stage of the alcohol addiction recovery process.

Some of the most common causes of alcohol relapse include: 

  • High levels of stress and being overwhelmed
  • Being in places where they serve alcohol
  • Being around people who drink regularly
  • Having problems within personal relationships
  • Poor self-care (not eating, sleeping, etc.)
  • Emotions that are negative and feel challenging
  • Seeing alcohol at a restaurant or in a movie
  • Being asked why they don’t drink anymore
  • Feeling a loss of control over their life
  • Stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues

Since these triggers are usually set off internally, it may be hard for family members and friends to realize when someone is on the path toward relapse. However, there are some general signs.

How To Know If An Alcoholic Has Relapsed

While there is no way to guarantee that someone has relapsed, it is possible to recognize certain changes in someone you care about. If you think a loved one  may be drinking again, look out for the following signs of alcohol relapse:

  1. Changing attitude, behavior, personality, and mood. If something feels “off” or they don’t seem as motivated toward recovery as usual, it’s possible that they have relapsed.
  2. Denial. People primarily relapse because the stress of sobriety gets to them. If they’re denying that they’re feeling any type of stress from recovery, that could be a bad sign.
  3. Withdrawal. If someone physically relapses and stops using again, they may experience withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, depression, restlessness, and memory loss.
  4. Going back to old habits. Going places they used to drink or hanging out with people they used to drink with could be a sign that someone you care about has relapsed.
  5. Neglecting daily tasks. When someone abandons their established daily routine and begins to neglect tasks like going to work or running errands, it could be due to relapse.
  6. Ignoring support. People who relapse may refuse help from members of their support system or suddenly stop going to group meetings. Relationships may become strained.
  7. Self-Isolation. Similarly, those who relapse may cut people off who can help them. They may also begin to feel uncomfortable around others and make excuses not to socialize.
  8. Health problems. Substance abuse, especially alcoholism, could lead to physical and mental health issues. If these problems re-appear, a person may be using again.

Relapse, while it can set people back, is a natural part of the recovery process that nobody should be ashamed of. Rather than harboring guilt after relapsing, people in recovery can equip themselves with certain relapse prevention tools to ensure the same thing won’t happen again.

To accurately prevent relapse, an individual must understand their personal triggers and do their best to avoid them. They should also keep reminding themselves of their reasons for quitting in the first place. Some more helpful techniques include enjoying new hobbies, utilizing coping strategies to overcome temptation, and creating a full relapse prevention plan with a therapist.


Treating Relapse and Alcohol Addiction

After relapse, it is important for individuals to move on with their recovery. This may involve going to rehab again or enrolling in an outpatient substance abuse treatment program. Treatment for alcohol relapse may include a combination of certain medications, one-on-one therapy, group counseling support meetings, exercise routines, nutrition plans, and more.

To learn more about how to recognize and treat alcohol relapse, contact our team of substance abuse treatment specialists by giving us a call at 866-345-2147.