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Signs of Relapse In Your Loved One

There are millions of people in this country who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some of them have support systems who are willing and able to help them get help, while others must enter recovery on their own. For me, I had a family in place and friends that wanted to see me get well. They are the reasons I was able to go to treatment and they are the ones who pushed me to help myself. I would not have recognized my problem as quickly if it wasn’t for my friends and family pointing it out. They could often see the issues before I could see them. I was naïve in believing that I could hide the fact that I was abusing drugs.
by Lara Frazier

It’s often said in recovery that in order to change our behavior, we must change our thinking. We must be willing to do what seems hard and unreasonable and often times, difficult. We must listen to others and their guidance and follow it. A program of recovery involves action. The minute that I stopped taking action in my recovery, is the minute in which my mind would start telling me that getting high was a good idea.

I am a person who has relapsed multiple times. Even after going to treatment and even in sober living, I relapsed. There are a multitude of reasons for each relapse. However, there are people who are able to stay sober through the loss of a parent, a miscarriage, a break up, depression, and job loss. If we have the proper routines and rituals in place; if we put our recovery before anything else; and if we are working a program of action, then we have a much better chance of staying sober.

If you are a parent or a partner of someone who is newly sober and they are coming back from treatment to live with you – I have put together the below list to show you signs that you can watch for to understand if your loved one is still sober. Whenever I would relapse, I would hide it from the people I loved most. I didn’t want to disappoint them, and once I got that first high, I couldn’t stop chasing it. The desire to use was stronger than my desire to be honest and return to recovery.

First, watch your loved one’s patterns. Notice what time they go to bed and what time they wake up. What does their routine look like? Are they working? Do they have a set meeting that they go to every night of the week? It’s important to understand your loved one’s routine so that if it changes, you can acknowledge that there might be a problem.

For example, when I am sober, I maintain normal sleeping hours. I go to bed at the same time and I awake around the same time. I am not sleepy during the day and I rarely nap. Whenever I relapsed, I would start staying up late, and oftentimes all night, and I would sleep in. My eyes would look tired during the day because I hadn’t slept the night before.

A newly sober person often is asked and/or required (by a sponsor) to go to a certain number of meetings per week. If your loved one has a set number of meetings they go to each week, it’s important to know this schedule. They also might have a “homegroup” – a homegroup is the main meeting they go to and where they find the most support. This meeting is held at the same time and on the same day every week. If your loved one has been going to meetings for weeks and suddenly stops going – this could be a sign of a problem. Even if they might not have relapsed yet, any change in their routine can be questionable.

Has your loved one started being more negative than they used to be? Do they seem hopeless? When I relapsed, I would start living in self-pity. I would talk about all the reasons why I wouldn’t be able to maintain a job. I would say that the drugs had caused permanent brain damage and I would never be as smart as I once was. My attitude, which was once positive and optimistic, would turn bleak and hopeless. It’s important to notice these types of changes as they could be a sign of relapse and or a sign that your loved one’s mental health is spiraling out of control.

Is your loved one spending a lot of time in the bathroom? Are they staying in their room and avoiding you? Are they isolating and not leaving the house? When their friends call to ask them to do something – do they say no when they once said yes? Isolation is usually a sign of relapse if the person has not been isolating when they got home. I know that whenever I relapsed, I would spend a lot of time in the bathroom, wherever I was, because I was getting high. A bathroom is a safe space for an addicted people because they can lock the door and if questioned they can say they were sick or not feeling well. Also, I wouldn’t return phone calls or texts. I wanted people to leave me alone. As I mentioned before, pay attention to your loved one’s routine. If they used to call or text you right back and now they aren’t, you might have to ask yourself and them why.

Do you notice that your loved one is telling lies? Even just small white lies? Lying is a sign of use. It’s difficult for an addicted person to be honest. If your loved one came home from treatment and was honest and open and now they are telling lies, this is a behavior change. Be sure to look for any and all behavior changes.

These are just a few ways that you can tell if your loved one has relapsed. The more obvious signs are physical signs – disheveled appearance, pinned pupils, loss of color in their skin, bloodshot eyes. If you are thinking of confronting your loved one and asking if they relapsed, be prepared for them to be defensive. If they haven’t relapsed and they find that you are questioning them, they could be angry. If they have relapsed and they don’t want to tell you – they could manipulate you and say things like, “I can’t believe you don’t trust me.” This is a way to make you feel guilty and to question your own beliefs.

If your loved one is coming to live with you after treatment, it might be a good idea to set some ground rules beforehand. For example, you can say that if they live with you they must agree to weekly drug tests. You can buy these kits from the pharmacy. You can also say that they can’t shut their door or they can’t lock it. You can say that you have the right to search their bedroom whenever you want. These obviously aren’t appropriate for someone who has not been manipulative or dishonest in the past – but if your loved one has done this in the past, then it’s not a bad idea to set these type of rules. Again, changed behavior is one of the biggest signs of relapse so you must be diligent in observing patterns and behaviors.



Lara Frazier is a truth-teller, a sobriety warrior and a writer. She is a FIERCE believer in the power of owning our stories and is a strong advocate for addiction recovery. Lara shares a story of healing: in sobriety, through addiction, in life and love, and in all the other big huge moments of fear and magic that we rarely talk about, but we should. Find more of Lara’s work on her website at or follow her on Instagram @sillylara.

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