How To Prevent Alcohol Relapse


There is evidence-based research and scientific support behind the 12-steps. Foster healthy friendships with individuals who support your desire to make healthy choices. Many addiction experts suggest that by removing yourself from your typical environment, and your “triggers”, it becomes easier to get and stay sober. For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the helpline is a private and convenient solution.

When physical relapse happens, people in recovery from liver damage risk a recurrence of alcohol-related liver disease. And if they have cirrhosis, relapse can even lead to death. Some people who slip realize their mistake and seek help. It’s sometimes the last obstacle to overcome on the path to alcohol recovery. They either relapse or seek further therapy to prevent future slips. Relapse can be averted if friends or family members intervene and convince the person to go to recovery meetings or alcohol counseling.

What Is A Relapse?

With proper guidance from a mental health professional, and in some cases with the aid of prescribed psychotropic medications, individuals can live a thriving life with a mental health diagnosis. Unfortunately relapse rates for individuals who enter recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction are quite high. Studies reflect that about 40-60% of individuals relapse within 30 days of leaving an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center, and up to 85% relapse within the first year.

Just as you might return to the doctor if symptoms of a physical illness return, a relapse during the course of addiction indicates that it is likely time for professional intervention. When the process of mental relapse begins, there are some techniques a person can use to regain control of their thinking and make the choice to not drink or use. Researchers Terence T. Gorski and Merlene Miller identified a set of warning signs or steps that typically lead up to a relapse. Over the years, additional research has confirmed that the steps described by Gorski and Miller are reliable and valid predictors of alcohol and drug relapses. When alcoholics relapse, they often keep drinking, feeling that there is no point in stopping since they already slipped up. But continuing to drink will make it much harder to stop, leading to a renewed entrenchment in your addiction. Maintaining a hopeful outlook, understanding relapse triggers, and building a support system can help you rebound from an Alcohol Relapse.

  • Part of the recovery process is setting healthy boundaries with friends, family or colleagues who do not respect your sobriety enough to stay sober while they are around you.
  • The steps to relapse are actually changes in attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that gradually lead to the final step, using a drink or a drug.
  • Deirdre graduated in 2012 from Pace University and completed her bachelor’s at Columbia University in New York and has her Master of Science in Family Nurse Practitioner.
  • Vince is a licensed social worker who treats clients recovering from substance use disorders.

Previous alcohol users will be in denial throughout an emotional relapse, but they wont have intentions of using. They’ll feel ashamed of a past time they relapsed and have acquired negative behaviors to cope with their feelings. This state of mind is hazardous because it prompts harmful health practices that may lead to a full-blown relapse. When patients in recovery submit to triggers, their brains produce rationalization to consume alcohol despite comprehending that remaining sober is their goal. This continuous conflict heightens their vulnerability to cravings, which could result in relapse. High-risk places remind former alcohol abusers of the times they engaged in drinking to get drunk. Driving or walking through areas where alcoholics used to drink may spark a recollection related to alcohol use.

A relapse doesn’t always mean a return to drug rehab is necessary. However, it usually means some form of substance abuse treatment is a good idea. Support groups for sobriety like SMART Recovery ( differentiate between a relapse and a slip.

How Should I Deal With A Relapse?

Ask your family to keep you accountable, seek spiritual guidance through meditation or religion and join sober group activities. If you have experienced a relapse, there are many things you can do to get back on the path to sobriety. Experts thinkthis occurs because the neural circuits involved in stress and mood are the same circuits involved in the brain’s reward system. For this reason, stress can trigger the same brain circuits that were triggered when you sought alcohol in the past. This means stress can lead to cravings, which can lead to a relapse.

  • Alcohol use may appear to provide momentary relief for mental illness symptoms, but in reality, alcohol abuse conflicts with treatment for mental illness and will make symptoms more dangerous.
  • Because the laboratory studies described earlier were conducted with treatment-engaged alcoholics who were inpatients at a treatment research unit, it was possible to assess relapse rates after discharge.
  • For example, if you had an addiction to opioids, a relapse is a return to using those same drugs.
  • You can learn from your mistakes and get back on the right path.
  • This is due in part to the withdrawal symptoms individuals with an alcohol use disorder experience when they stop drinking or significantly reduce the familiar amount of intake.
  • Individuals who have the courage to get help, who make the commitment to regain their sobriety, and who do the hard work that is necessary to gain a solid foothold in recovery are worthy of great respect.

If your loved one has relapsed, try to stay calm and be as supportive as possible. Understand that relapse is normal, and that it can be overcome. The last thing your loved one needs in this moment is to feel ashamed and upset, as stressful feelings like that can increase their chances of using again. It involves changing deeply-rooted behaviors that were once an integral part of a person’s lifestyle. As with learning anything new , this can take time, trial and error. If your loved one has taken a step back on their road to recovery, it does not mean that they are not making progress.

What people don’t often realize is that recovery from addiction is not as simple as admitting a problem and getting treatment for it. Recovery is a lifelong battle, and certain factors involved with recovery from alcohol use disorders suggest that it’s even harder to avoid relapse from other SUDs. Treatment of addiction involves changing deeply entrenched behaviors. However, even after your loved one has maintained their sobriety for some time, there may be instances that prompt them to resume their drug or alcohol abuse. When someone you care about relapses, know that this is a time when they need your unconditional love and support more than ever. Without criticism or judgment, you can help by doing your best to assist this person in finding whatever services will help them refocus and rededicate their efforts towards achieving sobriety once more.

Preventing Alcohol Relapse After Treatment

When you are an alcoholic and have achieved sobriety, you are in recovery. However, it takes work to stay in recovery, and even the hardest-working person can experience slips, lapses and relapses during the alcohol recovery process. During this stage, the mind is battling between using and not using. Part of the addicted person wants to use, while the other part wants to continue with their recovery. A person in recovery may begin bargaining during the mental relapse stage. They may convince themselves it is okay to use drugs or alcohol on special occasions, such as on a holiday or during a vacation.

Alcohol Relapse

You may feel loneliness, frustration, anger, resentment, and tension. You may begin feeling uncomfortable around others and making excuses not to socialize.

You might remember some things that were helpful the first time. Or, you might have ideas about what could have made the process easier. You cannot win this battle without reaching out for help. If you keep these thoughts to yourself, you are in danger of physical relapse. Remember that addiction is often the result of coping with an underlying mental health issue. You might believe that relapse is a return to the same addictive behaviors that you have faced before.

What Is An Emotional Relapse?

Alcoholism is a chronic disease that takes months or years of treatment and support to recover from. It takes years to conduct studies on people recovering from alcoholism. That’s why 2017 and 2018 alcohol relapse statistics aren’t available yet.

Alcohol Relapse

It’s important to know that relapse is possible, and often a very normal part of the recovery process. Somewhere between 40 to 60 percent of drug addicts relapse somewhere along their way, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse . Anyone who has faced a substance use disorder is vulnerable to relapse. While you are creating an aftercare plan, speak up if there is a component of your plan that does not resonate with you or that you do not understand. Your addiction treatment team is there to help ensure that you have the most effective plan possible. The good news is that there are options to help you break the cycle of chronic relapse.

David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker and the author of two books. David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. After a relapse, many people experience feelings of shame or regret. Furthermore, you may feel like giving up the fight and giving into your addiction rather than continuing to work hard and overcome the fleeting desire to use. These are normal, but can create challenges to creating a drug-free life.

What Are The Stages Of Relapse?

They consider a slip to be a brief, one-time event that couldn’t be foreseen. This could include a brief slip into substance abuse as a reaction to things like a job loss, death of a loved one, or being blindsided by a trigger. Proper self-care will make you feel better about yourself, and will be sending a message to yourself that you care about your wellbeing. Conversely, poor self-care sends messages to yourself that you don’t care about your wellbeing and can trigger a relapse. For example, eating a diet that is unhealthy, low in nutrients, and/or high in sugar may result in poor physiological and neurological health that can lead to low mood and cause alcohol or drug cravings. Weight gain can lead to individuals feeling depressed, and trigger thoughts that their substance use might help them lose the weight they have put on.

Some triggers are specific, but stress and anxiety are a general problem for recovering alcoholics and they can arise in new and unexpected situations. Recovering alcoholics can benefit tremendously from stress-relieving practices like meditation, yoga, tai chi or massage. These mindfulness techniques can help defuse anxiety in a wide range of situations.

  • Grusser SM, Morsen CP, Wolfling K, Flor H. The relationship of stress, coping, effect expectancies and craving.
  • When faced with a trigger, you can use coping strategies like rationalization to overcome the temptation.
  • Instead, use this relapse as a learning tool; clarify your relapse prevention plan and identify your triggers.
  • Realizing that stress is a frequent relapse trigger, and understanding how to manage possible stressors and maintaining controlled moods, may help.
  • Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

The longer an alcoholic stays sober, the better their chances are for long-term sobriety. Overall, among people sober for five years, the chances of relapsing are less than 15%, according to Psychology Today. Alcohol relapse occurs in almost one-third of recovering alcoholics during their first year of sobriety. If you have relapsed, it is probably time to talk to your treatment team to try another approach or add additional treatments.

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional. Have a confidential, completely free conversation with a treatment provider about your financial options. Relapse often results in emotions such as guilt, shame and frustration, which are difficult but necessary emotions to understand. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and recognize where they are coming from. Running, lifting weights, walking and yoga are all hobbies that release endorphins within your body and allow you to naturally feel healthier and alive. Cooking, doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, ironing your clothes and cleaning your room are activities that lead to a sense of empowerment and contribute to an environment of well-being that supports sobriety.

Becoming involved in a sport allows a person to commit themselves in a positive manner while gaining the benefits of exercise and healthy socializing. Whether this is a sponsor, friend or family member, processing your urges with another person can help you determine why you want to use and why you shouldn’t.


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