What Does It Mean to Relapse? Signs to Look Out for In Your Loved One

Drug and Alcohol addiction relapse rehabilitation treatment program

It is heartbreaking to watch someone you love struggle with active addiction. It’s also hard to know how to best support them through early sobriety and long-term recovery.  When your loved one is in early sobriety, you will hear a lot of talk about relapse and relapse prevention. But what does it mean to relapse? Relapsing involves picking back up drugs, alcohol, or both after having gotten sober. Relapse can happen at any time in sobriety, and that’s why relapse prevention is critical. The Last House is here to help with relapse prevention and support your loved one as they create their sober life.

What Is a Relapse?

While relapse occurs when someone starts using drugs or alcohol again, most will admit that the relapse began in their minds long before the use began. So what is a relapse? Is it the taking of any substance or just the drug of choice? The answer is it depends. There are those within the recovery community that adheres to a rigid set of standards for sobriety. The ones in this camp believe that the taking of any mind-altering substance equals relapse. Others believe that avoiding the drug of choice while taking other substances is acceptable. Finally, some strike a balance and feel that substances prescribed by a doctor do not constitute a relapse if the medication is taken exactly as prescribed. 

What defines a relapse is personal. What’s more important to know is that relapses, when they happen, are not a reason for shame and do not have to last long. While relapsing can be dangerous depending on the drug used, it can also be educational. Relapsing does not eliminate the work that has been done in sobriety. Instead, a relapse should be examined for the lessons that can be used going forward. 

Who Is Vulnerable to Relapse?

To some extent, everyone who is in recovery is vulnerable to relapse. Addiction is not a disease that vanishes. While it often gets easier over time, long-term sobriety still requires work. To reduce the risk of relapse in early sobriety, some basics help, including: 

  • Making choices that support physical and emotional well-being
  • Having a stable and safe place to live
  • Engaging in meaningful daily activities
  • Building supportive relationships and social networks

Those in sobriety must also learn to identify and recognize their triggers. Developing a plan to address triggers, stress, and other life events is critical to long-term sobriety. 

Relapse Warning Signs to Look Out for in My Loved One

It can be challenging to recognize a relapse, especially in early recovery. Many in early recovery are more emotional and moody simply because they are not using. It is not uncommon for those in early recovery to have some bouts of anger or to cry during the first several months.  Recovery is not linear, and each month will bring new challenges to face. However, the signs of relapse will often be similar to the signs that your loved one was using in the first place. Moodiness may be expected, but slurred words, pinpoint pupils, and marked personality changes are not. As with many things, you have to keep the lines of communication open and trust your gut. 

Live Sober With the Help of The Last House

The Last House Sober Living is a network of sober living homes in the heart of West Los Angeles. We believe in providing our clients with the tools to have a meaningful life, participate in their sobriety, and avoid relapse.  Activities such as service commitments, sober parties, conventions, dances, and house outings are all a part of helping you learn how to have fun in sobriety.  If you’re wondering where to start to create your sober life, The Last House is here to help. 

Mason M’s Success Story

Mason M

My behaviors, outlooks, and attitudes have had a complete 180-degree shift. When I entered
this house I can remember thinking that I will do what I need to in order to just get through it
and viewed this situation as something that was pretty terrible. Yet, as time went on and as I
grew to not look at this house as something that I had to do, but more as something that I got
to do and had the privilege of being here, that’s when it all started to shift for me. I did not
approach each and every day as something I was fed up with and really tried to be more
optimistic, because if you wake up every day telling yourself this is going to suck, the chances of
that being the case are extremely high. This house has taught me that accountability is one of,
if not the most important thing in sobriety, and it is not so much about holding others to that
like we do in this house, but more about holding yourself accountable and being able to say “I
messed up” and then going out to make it right. Just because we get sober does not mean that
all is going to be well and good at all times and sometimes you are going to hear things that you
do not want to and now you have to deal with it in a sober frame of mind rather than running
and hiding from controversy. We learn to deal with it like men and not try to skate around
everything and use it which inevitably only makes matters worse. I have really begun to
do every single thing with much more effort and authenticity and this was not me when I was
drinking. Anything moderate or decent was okay with me and even then it was below average
because my standards were not very high. However, now with all of the work that I have put in
and that I will need to continue to put in, it has shifted to where I want to try to make every
single thing that I do superior and to the best of my ability! My attitude about life, in general,
has really transformed from a pessimistic outlook to an optimistic one and I try to attack each
and every day as if I am on “borrowed time” because when I was found in my apartment prior
to coming here – I had pancreatitis and bottles lying about everywhere; I was on the brink of
doing some irreversible damage and possibly even death. Life is very precious and I ultimately
the only reason that I have one is that I do not have a bottle in my hand or and I have a
lifestyle that was been given to me with the help of this house.

Dante N.K Success Story

Dante

Once I got here, I knew I wanted to get sober, but on my own accord.  I was not able to speak my truth and I held onto my old ways; ducking and dodging questions and believing my morals were above the program.  I lied, I bent rules, and truly believed that I was a victim to my circumstances.  Once I put down my walls and gave a real effort to the path laid out for me by The Last House and the Alcoholics and Cocaine Anonymous programs, I found joyous and free people. At first, I was there to listen and talk to women.  I wasn’t working any of the steps and didn’t get into the real work until it came time to get a job.  After working there for only four days I relapsed.  Then came what I believe was my first spiritual awakening.  I came back to The Last House and felt more shame and guilt than ever before.  I was looking my brothers and my house manager in the face, while hiding at the same time.  That secret was going to keep me sick and it caused me to not be able to sleep at all.  I decided to completely turn my life and my will over to the care of God.  I did something about who I was and what I stood for.  

I started working with a sponsor who showed nothing, but genuine care.  He helped me to see that I would never have to suffer again.  I used to think that I was special, not capable of great things, and hid behind a persona that said otherwise.  That is until I came to find out that the people surrounding me had almost or exactly the same thing going on. I was able to relate and have friendships where we didn’t depend on each other for validation or need anything from each other on a co-dependent level.  I saw my house as a real family and at that – my only family besides my parents, sister, or cousin Josh.  I was learning what accountability was, the value of hard work, how to be there for a brother, that the world doesn’t revolve around me, that I need to think before acting, how to listen, how to follow through, how to be honest, how to show vulnerability.  I developed new tools that serve me daily such as how to get a job, but most importantly how to stay sober.  My family doesn’t constantly worry about me, I have a job, and have reached a place of independence.  I have a clear mind, I’m healthy, and, of course, I am happy!  I know what it is like to hit the pillow sober and know what it means to live life on life’s terms.  My behaviors, outlooks, and attitudes have shifted from delusional and hopeless one to almost mature adulthood.

Harrison S.’s Path to Sobriety

Harrison S

I think the most important change in my outlook since getting to The Last House is, I now see that sobriety is possible for me.  When I came in, I had relapsed yet again (I was only out for one day), and all of the misery I was so used to came back instantly.  I was able to take some responsibility, but for the most part I was convinced the problem was my mom, first, and the world, second, and then me third.  I had never held a job and I had never been sober for longer than 5 months.  I didn’t know how to be consistent and I would rely on my mom sending me to treatment again once my relapses stopped being fun.  I said what I wanted and did what I wanted. I quickly learned from the groups at The Last House that my actions affected people and thus one of the first changes was learning to be considerate. 

It took a while for me to fully see what was happening, but I got a glimpse of it when my mom offered to fly me back to Denver and I declined.  Around 4 months in The Last House was when it clicked for me.  Most of the guys know that I received a call that my mom had taken her own life.  Instead of retreating and self-destructing, I leaned on the guys.  I got up, and did the things suggested to me (at times because I did not want to receive words for sleeping in).  The house showed me what I am actually capable of doing because no one let me do much less.   As time went on, I got a job, then two jobs, and found I was able to handle all of my responsibilities.  A few years prior I was in a basement covered in trash and starring at months-old piles of laundry – changing my clothes weekly or so because even a shower was too much work. 

Yet, now, I can handle things and for the first time in my life I feel pretty good a majority of the time.  I currently have two jobs, two sponsees, and a life I love today!  I wouldn’t have it without the 12 steps, and I wouldn’t have worked the steps unless I came to The Last House.

Jon L.’s Success Story

Jon L

Since being at The Last House, a lot has changed.  My relationship with my family has grown, but more importantly my relationship with myself has changed.  Before coming to The Last House, I was in a very dark place.  My life slightly changed when I tried getting sober for the first time in 2015.  I was not prepared for what was to come, not capable of using the tools I had, and to reach out for help in the community I had built.  After getting in trouble with the law, losing both my mother and father all in a couple of years, I’d lost all hope to live for anything.  I lost my identity and lost the people closest to me too; at the point all I knew was to turn to drugs.  I ended up destroying all relationships with friends in the program and with my siblings as well.  I had no life skills, could not hold a job, and just lost connection with everything.  I was all alone.  However, I couldn’t take it anymore and I finally asked for help.  I got another chance at life and was sent to The Last House. 

When I arrived at The Last House, I had a terrible outlook on life, a bad attitude, and a behavior that was getting me nowhere.  Being in The Last House has changed a lot in me which is not easy to admit.  This was a place I did not want to be at but needed to anyway.  It took a lot of sweat and tears to get to where I am at now (with the help of The Last House community).  I finally put my guard down, stopped fighting against the people who only wanted to help—and took their suggestion.  I needed the structure of being pushed to my limits.  I needed to be broken down and then lifted back up, but that was not easy.  Most importantly, I needed the 12 steps – that was one of the things missing in my recovery from the past.  From all of those times trying to get sober, I had never completed the steps and this time it has completely changed my life.  I really had to be pushed, even forced, to do the things I did not want to do and for me that was what I needed.  All I ever wanted was to be self-sufficient, independent, happy, content, present, and have a relationship with the family that I still have – my two brothers and two sisters who have been a big part of my recovery. 

This is just the beginning — these challenges and opportunities don’t stop.  I am always going to be growing as a person and challenged in life but being at The Last House has given me more tools than I ever had along with the ability to use them.  I am grateful for everything that has happened in my life, good and bad.

Will P.’s Path To a Bright Future

Will P

Coming into The Last House I was 34 days sober and I was still very desperate for any help I could get.  I thought that I was destined or doomed to die a miserable junkie and that there was no way of changing that.  My hopeless state felt like the only normal one and, today, I am completely baffled at how that has completely turned around. 

My sleep schedule is manageable.  I’m in the best physical shape I have ever been in.  I sponsor other men struggling with their alcoholism.  I’ve held numerous commitments.  I’ve spoken at numerous meetings.  I work as a manager at the very same sober-living I successfully completed.   I have a host of friends in recovery.  I have a better relationship with my family, and I am self-sufficient.  Best of all, I have found a relationship with a power greater than myself.  I have a new outlook on life, and I can’t deny its marvel or wonder.  My future feels bright and I can’t say I have ever felt that way before.

Cory M.’s Journey to Recovery

Cory M

I came into The Last House defeated by my addiction and alcoholism; being in and out of rehabs, sober living houses, IOP programs.  For the last 5 years – the reality of my life and condition hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was a sad, lost, depressed young man who was slowly killing himself.  Although I was so afraid to go to a program like The Last House I knew deep down that I needed to go.  It was a complete shock to me and my ego because I was so used to living in my self-centered addiction.  It was scary because I knew I had to let go of all of my old behaviors and beliefs which was a very uncomfortable thing to do.  It was so easy to live like a victim and a quitter.  Before I got here, I felt that I was special and that the world owed me something.  I thought that I could have the life I wanted without having to put any work into it.  The Last House taught me otherwise.  The Last House taught me that being uncomfortable is way more rewarding that being comfortable.  When I wanted to quit so very bad, The Last House showed me the strength and love of a very powerful brotherhood.  The Last House showed me what real friends are and how holding each other accountable is a life saver for people like me.  The Last House taught me how to show up for others when I didn’t feel like it.  The Last House taught me how to be a responsible, confident and brave man.  Shattering my ego and beliefs of myself and the world helped me the most.  I would have never in my life taken the bus, walked for miles and miles in the hot sun with a bunch of job applications trying to get a minimum wage job.  I would have never let a bunch of guys call me out at a dinner table and sit there in silence. I would have never accepted a punishment for a leaving a cup out.  I would have never held anyone accountable – I thought it was lame and fake.  Little did I know that all of these things I said I would never do, would actually be the best things I could have ever done for myself.  That goes to show that my behaviors, outlooks, and attitudes were completely twisted before I got to The Last House.  I have learned so many beautiful things; so many life-changing experiences during my stay and it is unbelievable the amount of change that has occurred in me in such a short amount of time.  I will forever be grateful for The Last House and all of the amazing people that I had have the honor to know.  Thank you so very much!