Relapse Prevention

The Process of Relapse

First of all, a person’s attitude may slightly change. This could be the result of outside influences, negative thoughts, or other sources, but the person will begin to think that their recovery and program are not as important anymore.

Secondly, sobriety will begin to seem like too much work to the person. Stress over being back in the real world or feelings of loneliness may make a person wonder why they try at all. Usually these are thoughts that the person won’t admit to having; rather they begin denying their situation once again.

The next step is withdrawal from family, supporters, and activities. This is a very common step with anyone who is going back to their old ways. By putting a distance between themselves and those that want to see them succeed, they feel like the disappointment of letting those people down will be a little easier.

If a person gets relapse prevention help at or before this point, they might not relapse to the point of using the drug or alcohol, or getting caught up in the addiction. But for those that continue along this path, relapse will occur. The person will stop listening to their good judgment, begin to lose control, and relapse back into the addiction.


What is Relapse Prevention?

Relapse prevention includes planning and commitment to following that plan. Because there are numerous warning signs before a relapse, a key part of a relapse prevention plan is being honest about what events might trigger a relapse, and determining how to respond ahead of time.

Reviewing potential relapse “triggers” and appropriate responses is something that should include those aiding the addict’s recovery effort, such as a counselor or 12-step program sponsor. Successful recovery requires the help of others, and relapse prevention is perhaps the best example.

What are relapse “triggers?”

Many things can trigger a relapse, including difficult emotional events such as a divorce or death of a loved one. Oftentimes, however, the subtle things can bring on a relapse, including anxiety, anger, irritability, mood swings, isolation and poor eating/sleeping habits. These emotional and behavioral triggers only grow more powerful if left unaddressed. For example, poor eating and sleeping habits can lead to exhaustion, which can prompt the desire to escape, which can then bring on thoughts of using again.

After relapsing, can I enter treatment again?

Yes, though there are many clients who relapse and never find their way back into treatment. The journey from addiction to recovery has often been described as a trip to hell and back. After escaping hell, do you really want to go back there again and risk not finding your way home?

How do relapse prevention plans work?

  1. First, relapse prevention plane initially involve those around the individuals, including sponsors/counselors and family. A supportive family can make all the difference between recovery and relapse. Friends and family who seek their own counseling or attend 12-step groups such as Al-Anon, for friends and family of problem drinkers, learn how to best help their loved one stay clean.
  2. Secondly, it’s not enough to identify possible relapse “triggers.” He or she must also alter response to these triggers. For example, an alcoholic can avoid bars or parties that trigger the desire to resume drinking. If work-related stress is a relapse trigger, they can learn how to say no to extra projects, limit their total workweek to 45 hours or try meditation and relaxation exercises to unwind.
  3. Thirdly, and perhaps, most importantly – when help is needed, they must ask for it.

I’ve recently relapsed… now what?

Although you or your loved one may feel disappointed, don’t become bogged down in guilt or self-pity; many in recovery relapse at some point. The goal of recovery is progress, not perfection. Relapse is an indication that something is wrong with the recovery program, not that long-term sobriety is impossible. The problem must be identified and fixed.

If you or a loved one needs help for drug or alcohol abuse, contact us today to speak with one of our caring and experienced Treatment Consultants. We can answer any questions regarding the information on this site, and work with you to develop individualized plans for treatment provided by American Addiction Centers.

Reducing the Risk

Knowing that these are some common steps to relapse, a person can do things to reduce their risk. The most important way to avoid these setbacks is to not be too confident about sobriety. Just because the person has made it through treatment and x number of days being sober, doesn’t mean they are cured. By not ever letting their guard down, they will be more able to keep their addiction in check. Another way to prevent relapse is to stay involved in certain activities, such as support groups, healthy hobbies, and exercise. All of these things are known to help the mind stay focused on the task ahead, which is staying sober.

Relapse happens, but it is not the end of the world. It is important that the person that relapses get right back up and back on their program to become sober again. Relapsing doesn’t mean failure; rather, it means the struggle after treatment is more difficult than expected. Sobriety isn’t impossible; it just takes hard work and time.


No matter your insurance, be it Cigna, Aetna, Humana, Blue Cross / Blue Shield (BCBS), Assurant, Unicare, United Health Care, Anthem, Carefirst, Asuris Northwest Health, Golden Rule, Celtic Insurance, Fortis, Health Net, Kaiser, Vista, Shelter, Wellpoint, Tri Care, Accordia or even Medicare, and state insurance — we can help you with relapse prevention. We also offer many affordable self pay options as well as luxury drug rehab.

Recovery Process