Working on our early warning signs is one way of avoiding a complete relapse. They are a set of symptoms that can occur in a specific order, over a particular period of time, that indicate a relapse is possible and impending.
You need to think about what changes that you experience in your thoughts, perceptions, feelings and behaviour prior to your last bout of drinking, whether you were moderating already, or had stopped completely . It is also helpful to identify events which might trigger these sorts of changes and I’ll cover those in more detail in another post
The early warning signs can take place over a period of several weeks or months and are usually noticeable between four weeks and two days before a relapse and include:
- Subtle changes in thinking – in terms of the way you think and what you think about. For me this is getting wistful about drinking, the cravings being rekindled and becoming preoccupied with the thought of drinking again.
- Change in the way you feel. So I get this sense of ‘f*ck it’ that gets stronger and stronger. I can almost taste the booze in my mouth.
- Changes in the way you behave. So I start to look for, or provoke, reasons to drink or I withdraw.
- Changes in relationships with other people. I might pick a fight to enable me to storm off to the off-license because I’m upset and I deserve a drink now. I might stop reaching out to the communities that would challenge these thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
If you were to look back you could almost pin-point the moment when you went from happily not drinking to unhappily not drinking, from happy sober person to dry drunk.
So if you find yourself experiencing what feels like early warning signs you can practice asking yourself questions such as:
- “What am I thinking about?”
- “How am I feeling?”
- “Is this my usual way of thinking/feeling?”
I usually out myself to Mr HOF or you guys 😉 What was your relapse signature?