May 27, 2020

At Risk of Relapse


We all want to excel in recovery, but it’s no secret that for many people relapse is part of the journey. Here, Dr. Harris Stratyner discusses some signs that could be red flags.


We have all heard that an individual relapses long before they actually take a drink of a drug. Addiction is insidious, and it is important to know the signs that you may be exhibiting that relapse may be on the horizon.

When you are in the zone you probably have a specific routine like going to AA, calling your sponsor, taking medication, seeing your doctor, staying away from triggering people, places and things. If you slowly stop doing these things, a red flag must go up.

Don't wait until all of these signs are existent.  Tell as many folks who will listen what your internal dialogue is, and how things are changing – share your “stinking thinking.”

Even more subtle signs like changes can show that something is wrong before you even consciously acknowledge it. Changes in sleep, eating, exercise hygiene and social habits can all indicate a problem. If you are someone who stays connected with others and suddenly stops, that too, should be a red flag.

Look at your mood and see if you are alternating between highs and lows. Are you angry at someone and getting ready to drink? Are you working differently so that work piling up may overwhelm you and cause you to drink?

What do your ego defense mechanisms look like? Have you begun to rationalize that one drink won't kill you? Are you projecting blame onto a loved one? Do you accept your alcohol use disorder, but not believe that other chemicals like marijuana are a problem?

Do process addictions seem to be cropping up? This might be gambling, acting out sexually, or becoming a workaholic. Are you romanticizing about the “good old days”?

Understand that getting sober is a process – it takes time and you may need to learn how to do things in a sober state – something referred to as state dependent learning.

Remember the biggest deterrent to relapse is staying connected to your routine and reaching out to others – both professionals and those in recovery.  Keep it simple.


Dr. Harris Stratyner, Ph.D., vice president of Caron Treatment Centerand clinical director of the New York region, is internationally known for developing and implementing the groundbreaking clinical model of “Carefrontation,” a treatment approach that doesn't shame or blame the patient. It recognizes addiction as a disease and stresses each individual's responsibility to work with healthcare providers to reach the goal of complete abstinence.  



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