Alcoholism is defined as a chronic disease, much like a condition like diabetes. What this means is that it’s never truly cured, but is instead managed. When you are an alcoholic and you’re sober, you’re in recovery.
It usually requires professional treatment for people to recover from alcoholism, and then they have to maintain their sobriety over the years by participating in aftercare and supportive programs, such as 12-step groups.
Alcoholism is a powerful disease, however, and anyone who suffers from it knows this well.
Even after being sober for years the potential for an alcohol relapse is possible.
A relapse isn’t necessarily one situation where a person in recovery slips up and has a drink, but instead, it’s seen as a process where someone eventually continues their drinking habits as they did before recovery, and sometimes the situation can be even worse than before because of the resulting guilt or shame.
However, just because a relapse occurs doesn’t mean someone is a failure in their recovery. Newer schools of thought on alcoholism and addiction feel that relapse is even part of the recovery process, and it can strengthen someone’s dedication to long-term sobriety if it occurs and is properly handled.
Just how common is a relapse for people who are alcoholics? What are the alcohol relapse rates and alcohol relapse statistics?
It’s reported that less than 20% of patients who receive treatment for alcoholism remain alcohol-free for an entire year. However, while the first years can be the hardest, the relapse rate does go down over time.
For people sober for two years, 60% remain alcohol-free, and for people who have been sober for five years, they are very likely to stay sober, although the threat of relapse is always present.
The research is similar to what’s cited in the alcohol relapse statistics above. Around 1/3 of people who are sober for less than a year will stay that way, but if you can get to a year of sobriety, the relapse rate falls to less than half. Also according to the same study, if you get the five-year sobriety mark, your chances of relapsing are less than 15%.
The general theory is that the longer you abstain from alcohol, the better your chances of success and the chances of relapsing after a long period of abstinence are very low. Of course, it can happen, but it’s not nearly as likely as if you’re only in the first year of sobriety.
The key is to understand alcohol relapse statistics, to know your triggers, and to constantly work on ways to avoid a relapse. As with anything, the more you work at it, and the longer you work, the better you’ll be at avoiding a potential relapse.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.