Relapses and Slips in Alcohol (or any Addiction) Recovery

Relapse ratesRelapses

A relapse is when you return to using alcohol (or drugs) in the manner you did before you quit.


This is when you drink but put an end to it right away.

There is evidence that approximately 90 percent of alcoholics are likely to experience at least one relapse over the 4-year period following treatment (1). Despite some promising leads, no controlled studies definitively have shown any single or combined intervention that prevents relapse in a fairly predictable manner. Thus, relapse as a central issue of alcoholism treatment warrants further study.
Similar relapse rates for alcohol, nicotine, and heroin addiction suggest that the relapse mechanism for many addictive disorders may share common biochemical, behavioral, or cognitive components (2,3). Thus, integrating relapse data for different addictive disorders may provide new perspectives for relapse prevention.


Relapse triggers can be external or internal. They make us think that it is alright, or even a good idea to drink again. Most alcohol triggers are classically conditioned. They are learned.

External relapse triggers happen when you put yourself in situations that make you want to drink.

  • When you visit certain people do you feel like drinking? When you hang out with your old buddies do you feel like you should be doing the things they are? Especially if they are drinking.
  • When you visit certain places do you feel like you should be drinking? The bar is a good one. Poker night. Bowling league.
  • Does the time it is make you feel like drinking? “It’s five O’clock somewhere”. Maybe after you get off work.
  • Do certain songs or movies make you feel like drinking. Jimmy Buffett songs, etc.. (I’m a huge Jimmy Buffett fan and I don’t listen to him sometimes because I associate Buffett with good times, romanticism, and alcohol)

These are things you can try and avoid.

Internal triggers, however, can also happen from out of nowhere. You may see a commercial on Television. (They are designed to make you want to drink.) Or hear a song on the radio.

Internal relapse triggers are inner ideas that drive you to a certain behavior.

  • Maybe you are feeling down and depressed about things.
  • Maybe things are going too well and you just want to party.

These relapse triggers can work together. Maybe things are going good and you run into an old friend. Next thing you know you’re intoxicated. Triggers are things that we learn to deal with in the maintenance stage of change.

Avoiding Relapse

sick person clip art1. Have some type of self help group  many folks like to go to meetings, however, this doesn’t have to be the case. The support can come through family members, co-workers, teammates, clergy, and naturally staff at the in-patient drug rehab that was attended. Don’t be afraid to communicate problems and request help from people you have faith in, but try and concentrate more on solutions than the problems themselves.

2. Attend a prolonged treatment program. If possible, a longer-term (over 30 days) drug and alcohol treatment center will frequently generate a solid foundation to employ that should include therapy and coaching concerning addiction and staying sober.

3. Get involved with various other drug-free organizations and activities  this might include getting active in your church, discovering some form of sport or hobby, volunteering with community services, or anything that helps to keep you occupied and productive.

4. Don’t hang out in pubs and clubs ‘ whether or not alcohol was your principal drug of choice, bars and clubs normally have a rather high rate of substance abuse and might be disastrous to someone who’s trying to reconstruct a life with no chemicals or alcohol. In addition, people that drink alcoholic beverages lose their inhibitions and perception of good judgment and generally decide that it is okay to take substances ‘just this once,’ causing their downfall.

5. Maintain good quality health, exercise, set adequate sleep patterns and suitable nutrition are essential to feeling good. Since substance and alcohol addiction is usually the consequence of wanting to feel better regarding some unwanted condition, the more that you can do to stay healthy the greater your chances are for keeping away from substance abuse. This does not have to mean a laborious workout regimen, but it does mean to stay busy in some way, take vitamins and other natural supplements and get enough sleep to be rejuvenated for every day and to keep you free from harmful toxins. You may be stunned at how far all these simple things will take you.


6. Stay apart from old drug-using acquaintances people who get support for drug abuse quite often make the mistake of hanging out with their old friends who still abuse alcohol or chemicals. At some point the standard agreement of ‘it’s ok to do it so long as it’s not out of control’ takes over and triggers a backslide. It is not really a good notion to keep in touch with folks like that who can have a unhealthy impact on your sobriety.  In the beginning this is critical to preventing alcoholism relapse.

7. Establish and work toward accomplishing goals and objectives in life ‘ one of the finest methods of sustain satisfaction is to keep productive and attain objectives you have set for yourself. This could be little things to start with, but also incorporate mid-range and long term goals and objectives so that you are perpetually striving to boost your circumstance in life.

8. If at all possible, stay away from prescription drugs that have misuse potential.  In present-day society we are continually deluged with advertising campaign encouraging the most recent ‘feel-good’ chemicals and the notion of taking a tablet for every single symptom. Substances with either serious abuse potential or possible heavy side-effects can include painkillers, anti-anxiety chemicals, sleep aids, antidepressants or anti-psychotics. Prescription drug addiction has grown to be a significant condition in America, so speak to your physician and get an extra opinion to determine if prescriptions are really necessary for your circumstance or to determine if there is a drug-free alternative remedy for them.

The 8 tricks for averting the alcoholism relapse in the above list are just some common sense examples of how you or someone you love can stay drug free. In a lot of situations the simple things, when applied, are what work the best, yet sadly most therapy professionals try to complicate the matter. Selecting the correct drug rehab clinic is usually a good start.

You slipped, don’t let it become a relapse.

After a Slip

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Firstly…don’t panic. Take a deep breath and consider the following facts.

  1. Slips are pretty common, especially early on. Slips don’t have to grow into relapses and the quicker you get back on the right track, the better.
  2. Having a slip or a relapse doesn’t mean that you’ve failed or that treatment didn’t work. Getting treatment doesn’t give you a magic cure, it just teaches you the skills you need to maximize your chances at maintaining abstinence.  After a slip, the best thing to do is to retreat back to what was working to keep you sober before the lead-up to the relapse.
  3. If you use a slip as a learning experience, it can even strengthen your longer term recovery chances.

After a slip, consider:

  • Getting physically away from a risky environment – away from temptation, away from alcohol or drugs and away from people who provoke cravings
  • Getting in touch with the people who keep you sober right away – call or visit your sponsor, your counselor, a family member or anyone else from your sober support network
  • Talking to your counselor or another mental health professional about whether you should return to a higher intensity level of treatment. Addiction treatment, at its best, changes over time to meet your needs. As you gain stable sober time, you probably need less intensive treatment (occasional continuing care sessions, for example) but after a slip or relapse, you likely need to return to a more intensive stage of treatment (returning to an outpatient program for example, to refocus on the skills you need to maintain abstinence).
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Category: Rehab
Home: Living With An Alcoholic