Cheers to Tears

Overcoming Relapse: A Guide to Maintaining Sobriety

Relapse is a common occurrence among those who are struggling with alcohol use disorder. It is the process of backsliding or subsiding into old habits after a period of sobriety.

Relapse can be particularly disheartening for those who have made significant progress towards recovery. In this article, we will discuss the causes of relapse, the different stages of relapse, and how to prevent it from happening.

Understanding Relapse

Relapse can occur at any point during the treatment process, even after a long period of sobriety. It is a gradual process, and it is possible to identify the early warning signs of relapse.

The frequency of relapse among individuals with alcohol use disorder is high and can range from 40% to 60%. This reinforces the importance of developing relapse prevention strategies and strengthening coping skills.

The Stages of Relapse

Relapse is a process that occurs in three different stages. The first stage is emotional relapse, which is characterized by feelings of anxiety, irritability, and mood swings.

During this stage, the individual may begin to neglect their self-care routine, stop attending meetings, or avoid social interactions. The second stage is mental relapse, where the individual begins to have cravings for alcohol and starts to plan their relapse.

The final stage is physical relapse, where the individual consumes alcohol.

Preventing Relapse

Identifying Triggers

Identifying triggers is crucial in preventing relapse. Triggers can be people, places, environments, difficult emotions, or special events that are associated with drinking.

By identifying these triggers, individuals with alcohol use disorder can develop a plan to avoid them. For example, if a social gathering typically triggers the urge to drink, the person can either avoid the event or have a plan in place to deal with the temptation.

Developing Coping Skills

Developing healthy coping skills can help individuals manage difficult emotions that can lead to relapse. Coping skills can include practices like mindfulness, self-care, and emotional awareness.

Mindfulness teaches individuals how to be present in the moment and focus on their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Self-care may involve practices like exercise, meditation, or getting enough sleep.

Emotional awareness involves identifying and expressing emotions in a healthy way. Paying Attention to H.A.L.T.

H.A.L.T. stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired.

These are common triggers for relapse, and it is important to pay attention to them. If an individual is hungry, they may become irritable or anxious, leading to a heightened risk of relapse.

Anger can also trigger negative emotions that can lead to relapse. If an individual is feeling lonely or isolated, they may feel the need to drink to cope with their emotions.

Finally, when individuals are tired, they may turn to alcohol for a boost of energy.

Staying in Touch with Support

Staying in touch with support is crucial in maintaining sobriety. Support can come in various forms, such as peers, counselors, meetings, and online groups.

Peers can offer encouragement, guidance, and accountability. Counselors can provide therapy to help manage difficult emotions and develop coping skills.

Meetings can provide a supportive environment for individuals to connect with others who are going through similar experiences. Online groups can provide additional resources and support for individuals who might not have access to in-person meetings.


In summary, relapse is a common occurrence among individuals with alcohol use disorder. Relapse can occur at any time during the treatment process, and it is essential to develop strategies to prevent it.

By identifying triggers, developing healthy coping skills, paying attention to H.A.L.T., and staying in touch with support, individuals can increase their chances of maintaining sobriety. It is important to remember that relapse is not a failure and that it is possible to recover from it.

With the right tools and support, individuals can overcome relapse and achieve long-term sobriety.

3) Bouncing Back After Relapse

Struggling with addiction is a difficult journey, and many individuals may experience relapse at some point during their recovery. After a relapse, it is important to seek support, reflect on the experience, and adjust the relapse prevention strategy.

Seeking Support

It is essential to seek support after experiencing a relapse. Counselors, treatment providers, peers, and loved ones can offer helpful insights and guidance.

It is important to find a support system that is non-judgmental, compassionate, and understanding. These individuals can provide encouragement and help to maintain motivation and focus on sobriety.

Reflecting on the Relapse

After a relapse, it is important to reflect on the experience and identify warning signs and red flags that may have led to the relapse. Reflecting on the event can help individuals identify and address any underlying issues that may have contributed to the relapse.

It is also important to focus on the positive aspects of recovery and acknowledge the progress that has been made.

Adjusting Relapse Prevention Strategy

After reflecting on the experience, it may be necessary to adjust the relapse prevention strategy. Stress management and therapy can be effective tools in preventing relapse.

Finding additional coping mechanisms can also help to reduce stress and prevent future relapses.

4) Overcoming Shame and Moving Forward

Experiencing a relapse can be a challenging and emotional time, and it is common to feel a sense of shame and disappointment. However, it is important to recognize relapse as a common experience and to use it as a learning opportunity.

Recognizing Relapse as Common

Relapse is a common occurrence, and it is not a sign of failure. It is important to acknowledge that relapse is a part of the recovery process, and it does not mean that an individual cannot achieve long-term sobriety.

Compassion and understanding towards oneself can help to reduce feelings of shame and self-doubt.

Using Relapse as a Learning Opportunity

Relapse can be seen as a learning opportunity and a chance for growth. Reflecting on the experience can help individuals identify areas in which they need to improve and develop a more comprehensive relapse prevention strategy.

It is important to focus on the progress made in recovery and use the experience to fuel motivation towards continued progress.

Seeking Additional Support

Additional support may be necessary after a relapse, such as participating in treatment programs or seeking the help of medical professionals. Recovery coaches and anti-craving prescriptions can also be helpful tools in managing cravings and preventing relapse.

Seeking additional support can be empowering and helpful in maintaining focus on sobriety. In conclusion, relapse is a common occurrence in the recovery process, and it is important to seek support, reflect on the experience, adjust the relapse prevention strategy, and use the experience as a learning opportunity for growth.

Overcoming feelings of shame and self-doubt can be challenging, but by recognizing relapse as common and treating it as a learning opportunity, individuals can continue towards long-term sobriety with motivation, compassion, and understanding. In conclusion, relapse is not a failure, but rather a common experience in recovery.

It is important to identify triggers, develop healthy coping skills, and seek support from loved ones, peers, and professionals. If a relapse does occur, it is essential to reflect on the experience, adjust the relapse prevention strategy, and use the experience as a learning opportunity for growth.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and recovery is possible.



What is relapse? Relapse is the return to substance use after a period of abstinence.

2. Why does relapse occur?

There are various reasons why relapse can occur, including stress, triggers, underlying mental health issues, or a lack of support or coping mechanisms. 3.

Is relapse common? Yes, relapse is a common experience in the recovery process, especially during the early stages.

4. Can relapse be prevented?

While relapse cannot always be prevented, developing healthy coping skills, identifying triggers, and seeking support can significantly reduce the risk. 5.

What should I do if I experience a relapse? If you experience a relapse, seek support, reflect on the experience, adjust the relapse prevention strategy, and use the experience as a learning opportunity.

Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength.

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