Relapse is a common and normal occurrence in substance abuse just like it is in other chronic illnesses such as asthma and high blood pressure. Relapse rates for substance use disorders are between 40 and 60%, while relapse/recurrence rates for asthma and high blood pressure are even higher at between 50 and 70%. Relapse to drug and alcohol use doesn’t mean treatment has failed—it just means your alcohol rehab program must be resumed or modified in ways that can lead to a long-term outcome.
Learning how to manage and avoid triggers is one of the most important components of alcohol addiction treatment. Once you master this skill, you can confidently say no to alcohol and steer clear of situations that may lead to relapse.
Here are the 10 most common alcohol relapse triggers, along with tips on how to effectively manage them.
- 1 1. Stress
- 2 2. Physical or Mental Illness
- 3 3. Social Situations or Places With Access to Alcohol
- 4 4. HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired
- 5 5. Positive Life Events
- 6 6. Reminiscing About Past Alcohol Use
- 7 7. Overconfidence
- 8 8. Romantic Relationships
- 9 9. Negative Emotions
- 10 10. Social Isolation
- 11 Recovering at Summer House with Alcohol Detox
Stress is one of the most common relapse triggers and a prime reason why many people begin abusing drugs and alcohol in the first place. Researchers say that people in recovery who experience stress often glamorize past drug use and think about it longingly. Being preoccupied with drug and alcohol use will often lead to relapse.
Stress is a normal part of life that everyone experiences from time to time. However, there are many healthy ways to manage stress that don’t involve alcohol use. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, journaling, and meditating are some healthy ways to effectively manage stress and avoid relapse.
People in recovery who feel physically or mentally ill may start drinking again in an effort to numb or forget about their pain and symptoms. Physical and mental illness also often produce stress, which increases the risk of relapse.
Evidence suggests that about 50% of people who experience a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder, while the reverse is also true. A person who is diagnosed with a mental illness and substance use disorder is known to have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Many alcohol rehab centers offer treatment programs for those with co-occurring disorders so these individuals can be treated for both mental illness and addiction, and reduce their relapse risk.
Reverting to old habits is highly likely among those in recovery who find themselves in situations where alcohol is easily accessible. Going to parties, driving past bars, and attending sporting events are some situations that can trigger a relapse in those recovering from alcohol addiction.
The best way to manage this trigger is to immerse yourself in fun, sober activities that won’t expose you to alcohol. Join a gym or exercise class, start a book club, or do volunteer work that makes you feel positive about your decision to stay sober. Many alcohol rehab centers will introduce you to new interests and hobbies that take the place of drinking and going to bars.
The acronym “HALT” is used at many alcohol rehab centers to remind patients of the importance of self-care. Addressing hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness can often help prevent relapse, since some may drink to fight off these feelings, or to resolve them.
Try to be proactive with addressing each of these 4 states to stave off any urges to drink. Eat regularly throughout the day when you’re hungry, and attend therapy sessions and support groups regularly for help with managing anger and loneliness. When you’re feeling tired, take a nap, go to bed early, or take a break from the task at hand to avoid becoming stressed and relapsing.
Positive life events such as being promoted at work or moving into a nicer home may seem like unlikely relapse triggers, but events such as these can often make you feel like celebrating with a drink. Though you may feel confident about having just one drink without permanently relapsing, this behavior can quickly spiral out of control—especially if you start looking for more excuses to celebrate.
Create a plan for how you can celebrate positive life events without drinking alcohol. For instance, plan on eating dinner at your favorite restaurant with friends and family, or treat yourself to new clothes or something nice for your home. That way, when amazing things happen in your life, you can celebrate safely without the risk of relapse.
There may be times after you become sober that you find yourself reminiscing about past alcohol use. You may think about funny things that happened while you were drinking, or about special events like family reunions or parties that involved alcohol use. Glamorizing and remembering past alcohol use may lead to relapse if you don’t distract yourself or refocus your mind on other things.
When you find yourself doing this, talk to a counselor, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsor, or supportive loved one about where your mind is at so they can set you back on track with recovery. Eventually, your thoughts about past alcohol use will be replaced with those surrounding current interests in your life that are much healthier and more productive.
Confidence is an important trait for anyone to have and plays a major role in your recovery. However, it’s possible to be overly confident and think you can easily handle a drink or two without losing control and falling back into regular, heavy drinking. Being overly confident about your ability to start drinking again without it becoming problematic may eventually lead you back to addiction.
Keep in mind that recovery is a lifelong journey and that addiction is a chronic disease. No matter how strong or confident you may feel, it will be difficult for you to have just one drink and leave it at that. Commit to staying sober, and to find other ways to have fun and relax without putting your health and life at great risk.
Many alcohol rehab centers and addiction treatment professionals advise patients to avoid dating or becoming romantically involved with anyone during their first year of recovery. This is because relationships often cause emotional stress or give reason to celebrate—both of which are factors that can lead to relapse.
Try focusing completely on your recovery during the first year instead of focusing on meeting new romantic partners. This will give you more time to learn how to effectively manage stress, establish a new daily routine, repair current relationships, and adjust to a new, sober, healthier lifestyle. At the 1-year mark, you may be in a better place physically and mentally to where you can pursue a romantic relationship without being at risk for relapse.
Guilt, sadness, anger, loneliness, and embarrassment are common negative emotions you may experience during recovery and throughout life that make you feel like relapsing. In your earliest days at alcohol rehab, it’s important to acknowledge that these feelings are perfectly normal and go hand-in-hand with addiction recovery. Your recovery program will include education about how to effectively handle and cope with negative emotions without turning to drugs and alcohol.
Addiction is closely related to social isolation, especially when drinking leads to strained relationships, loss of contact with close friends, and more time being spent drinking alone. Being socially isolated can make you feel sad, depressed, and lonely—all of which are also relapse triggers on their own. This is why many alcohol rehab centers offer counseling and therapy sessions in group settings.
To avoid social isolation and relapse, get involved with a recovery support group such as AA, and attend meetings regularly. Your peers in recovery will serve as a strong support network and keep you feeling motivated about staying sober.
Summer House Detox Center offers alcohol detox in Florida to help you experience a safe, comfortable recovery from alcohol dependence. Alcohol detox at Summer House takes place in a luxury setting where you can spend time with peers who understand what you’re going through as you make your way through recovery. Patients who complete our alcohol detox program can be referred to an alcohol rehab center where they can receive counseling and behavioral therapy for addiction.
Contact us today at 800-719-1090 to learn more about our available alcohol detox programs.