Family members can help their addicted loved one to identify the signs of relapse before they happen and help her to connect with the resources that will help her stay sober.

Watching your loved one suffer from drug or alcohol dependence is one of the most torturous experiences imaginable. Though it is a treatable medical disorder, it is also a condition that is commonly characterized by brief returns to using alcohol or drugs. This symptom of the disease, called relapse, need not drag families on an emotional roller coaster throughout their addicted loved one’s attempts to remain clean and sober. Rather, family members can help their addicted loved one to identify the signs of relapse before they happen and help her to connect with the resources that will help her stay sober.

Triggers for Relapse

Why do people relapse? The answer to this question is unique to each patient. Depending on the user’s past with drugs and alcohol, her current stressors, her issues with trauma and/or co-occurring mental health symptoms, any number of things can cause her to crave drugs or alcohol. Some common triggers for relapse include:

  • Interacting with others who are under the influence or regularly abuse substances
  • Interacting with people or places where she used to get high or drink
  • Seeing someone get high or drink (even on TV or in a movie)
  • Hearing someone talk about using drugs or alcohol in a way that romanticizes it
  • Experiencing an acute stressor (e.g., getting fired, the breakup of a romantic relationship, the loss of a loved one, etc.)
  • Dealing with ongoing mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, paranoia, etc.)

Though family members cannot control any of these things and may or may not be able to provide a buffer between the addicted person and her experience of any of these issues, being aware that any of the above can trigger cravings will help family members recognize when it’s time to pay closer attention and amp up their level of support.


Once you realize that an addicted family member in recovery is dealing with a trigger or triggers and may be on the verge of relapse, you have the option of intervening. In serious situations where relapse has occurred – perhaps repeatedly – a formal intervention and a return to drug rehab may be needed. In most cases, simply acknowledging the difficulty of the situation without judgment and offering support can be helpful. You may:

Connect With Therapeutic Assistance Today

If your loved one is continually relapsing in recovery or if she is in need of a return to active treatment, we’re here to help. Contact us at The Recovery Village now to discuss options in medical detox, therapeutic treatment and ongoing care in addiction recovery.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.