Internal Warning Signs of Relapse. During this phase recovering people experience the inability to function normally within themselves. The most common symptoms are:
Difficulty in thinking clearly. Recovering people often have trouble thinking clearly or solving usually simple problems. At times their minds race with rigid and repetitive thoughts. At other times their minds seem to shut off or go blank. They have difficulty concentrating or thinking logically for more than a few minutes. As a result they are not always sure about how one thing relates to or affects other things. They also have difficulty deciding what to do next in order to manage their lives and recovery. At times they are unable to think clearly and tend to make bad decisions that they would not have made if their thinking was normal.
Difficulty in managing feelings and emotions. During periods of recovery many recovering people, at times, have difficulty in managing their feelings and emotions. At times they overreact emotionally (feel too much). At other times they become emotionally numb (feel too little) and are unable to know what they are feeling. At still other times they feel strange or "crazy feelings" for no apparent reason (feel the wrong thing) and may think they are going crazy. These problems in managing feelings and emotions have caused them to experience mood swings, depression, anxiety, and fear. As a result of this, they don't trust their feelings and emotions and often try to ignore, stuff, or forget about them. At times the inability to manage feelings and emotions has caused them to react in ways that they would not have acted if their feelings and emotions were properly managed.
Difficulty in remembering things. Many recovering people have memory problems that prevent them from learning new information and skills. The new things they learn tend to dissolve or evaporate from their mind within twenty minutes of learning them. They also have problems remembering key events from their childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. At times they remember things clearly. At other times these same memories will not come to mind. They feel blocked, stuck, or cut off from these memories. At times the inability to remember things has caused them to make bad decisions that they would not have made if their memory were working properly.
Difficulty in managing stress. Many recovering people have difficulty in managing stress. They cannot recognize the minor signs of daily stress. When they do recognize the stress they are unable to relax. The things other people do to relax either do not work for them or make the stress worse. It seems they become so tense that they are not in control of it. As a result of this constant tension there are days when the strain becomes so severe that they are unable to function normally and feel about to collapse physically or emotionally.
Difficulty in sleeping restfully. During periods of recovery many recovering people have difficulty sleeping restfully. They cannot fall asleep. When they do sleep they have unusual or disturbing dreams. They awaken many times and have difficulty falling back asleep. They sleep fitfully and rarely experience a deep relaxing sleep. They awaken from a night of sleep feeling tired and not rested. The times of day at which they sleep change. At times they stay up late due to an inability to fall asleep and then oversleep because they are too tired to get up in the morning. At times they become so exhausted they sleep for extremely long periods, sometimes sleeping around the clock for one or more days.
Difficulty with physical coordination and accidents. During periods of recovery many recovering people have had difficulty with physical coordination that results in dizziness, trouble with balance, difficulty with hand-eye coordination, or slow reflexes. These problems create clumsiness and accident proneness that cause other problems they would not have had if their coordination were normal.
Shame, guilt, and hopelessness. At times many recovering people feel a deep sense of shame because they believe they are crazy, emotionally disturbed, defective as a person, or incapable of being or feeling normal. At other times they feel guilty because they believe they are doing something wrong or failing to work a proper recovery program. The shame and guilt cause them to hide the warning signs and stop talking honestly with others about what they are experiencing. The longer they keep them hidden the stronger the warning signs become. They try to manage these warning signs but fail. As a result they begin to believe that they are hopeless.
Return of Denial. During this phase recovering people become unable to recognize and honestly tell others what they are thinking or feeling. The most common symptoms are:
Concern About Well Being. The internal warning signs of relapse make many recovering people feel uneasy, afraid and anxious. At times they may be afraid of not being able to stay sober. This uneasiness comes and goes and usually lasts only a short time.
Denial of the Concern. In order to tolerate these periods of worry, fear, and anxiety, they may ignore or deny these feelings in the same way they at one time denied addiction. The denial may be so strong that they are not aware of it while it is happening. Even when they are aware of the feelings, they are often forgotten as soon as they are gone. It is only when they think back about the situation at a later time that they are able to recognize the feelings of anxiety and the denial of those feelings.
Avoidance and Defensive Behavior. During this phase recovering people don't want to think about anything that will cause the painful and uncomfortable feelings to come back. As a result they begin to avoid anything or anybody that will force an honest look at self. When asked direct questions about well-being, they tend to become defensive. The most common symptoms are:
Believing "I'll Never Drink Again." Recovering people often convince themselves that they will never drink or use again. Sometimes they tell this to others, but usually they keep it to themselves. They may be afraid to tell their counselor or other AA members about this belief. When they firmly believe they will never drink or use again, the need for a daily recovery program feels less important.
Worrying About Others Instead of Self. They may become more concerned about the sobriety of others than about personal recovery. They do not talk directly about these concerns but privately judge the drinking of friends and spouse and the recovery programs of other recovering persons. When dealing with issues of sobriety the recovering person begins to focus more on what other persons are doing rather than upon what he or she is doing. In AA this is called "working the other guy's program."
Defensiveness. They may have a tendency to defend themselves when talking about personal problems or their recovery program even when no defense is necessary.
Compulsive Behavior. They may become compulsive ("stuck" or "fixed" or "rigid") in the way they think and behave. There is a tendency to control conversations either by talking too much or not talking at all. They tend to work more than is needed, become involved in many activities and may appear to be the model of recovery because of heavy involvement in AA Twelve Step work and chairing AA meetings. They may be leaders in counseling groups by "playing therapist." Casual or informal involvement with people, however, is avoided.
Impulsive Behavior. Patterns of compulsive behavior begin to be interrupted by impulsive reactions. In many cases these are over-reactions to stressful situations. High-stress situations that lasted for a long time generally resulted in impulsive behavior. Many times these overreactions to stress form the basis of decisions which affect major life areas and commitments to ongoing treatment.
Tendencies Toward Loneliness. They may begin to spend more time alone. They usually have good reasons and excuses for staying away from other people. These periods of being alone begin to occur more often and they begin to feel more and more lonely. Instead of dealing with the loneliness by trying to meet and be around other people, their behavior becomes more compulsive and impulsive.