Relapse Warning Signs and Triggers

Alcoholism, in modern addiction theory, is viewed as a chronic disease. What this means is that a person can go through treatment and they can be in recovery, which is almost like a type of remission, but relapse is possible. It’s important for people to take the necessary steps to maintain their recovery, such as participating in 12-step programs and ensuring they have appropriate social support to reduce the risk of a relapse.

It’s also essential to understand relapse warning signs and triggers, and this is a big part of a successful long-term recovery from alcoholism.

Relapse Signs | Relapse Warning Signs and Triggers
Along with the addict themselves being able to understand when they could be putting themselves in a situation that’s risky in terms of a relapse, it can be valuable for loved ones to know the relapse signs.

Some of the common relapse signs seen in alcoholics include:

  • Sudden changes in mood can be a big red flag that a relapse is either about to occur, or is already underway. Mood swings can include things like denial, secrecy, and irritability.
  • Speaking of irritability, this is often one of the first relapse signs that people will notice around an addict.
  • Going back to old patterns, routines or friend groups can be one of the signs of relapse. Specific examples could include going to a bar where the person hung out when they were drinking, or seeing friends they typically drank with rather than spending times with friends who are also in recovery.
  • Relapse warning signs often include missing outpatient groups, 12-step meetings or other supportive or aftercare programs.
  • Impulsivity can be a relapse sign.
Something important that people learn when they’re in treatment for alcohol addiction is what triggers are so that they can avoid them. Some triggers aren’t avoidable, but even so, identifying them before they become a problem can be a helpful way to avoid a relapse.

The following are some of the most common relapse triggers:

  • Problems in relationships tend to be one of the top relapse triggers people face when they’re a recovering alcoholic. Relationships can include marriages or romantic relationships, friendships or relationships with family members.
  • Boredom is an unfortunate relapse trigger for people in many instances. You might not even realize what a big role boredom initially played in your alcoholism, so you should plan for this and come up with strategies that will allow you to deal with your boredom in healthier and more productive ways.
  • While we often think of stressful or sad times as being relapse triggers, happy or celebratory times can also create a trigger. For example, if you’re at a party or you’re celebrating something good that’s happened, it can be tempting to want to drink at that time.
  • Of course, stressful situations are also relapse triggers, but during treatment, alcoholics can learn how they can deal with these problems before it becomes a relapse.

These aren’t the only relapse triggers people face as they work to remain sober, but they’re some of the most predominant.

When you’re in treatment or something like a 12-step program, you’ll hear a lot about relapse rates, and the numbers can be scary and discouraging in a lot of ways, but there are a few things to consider.

First, with relapse rates, it’s key to really know what relapse is, and how it’s part of the journey to long-term sobriety. Relapse is common as people recover from alcoholism, but if it does happen, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. A lot of more modern theories on addiction view relapse as a part of the process, and if it’s handled in the right way, it can actually strengthen your future sobriety.

Also, just because you relapse doesn’t mean you can’t go back to sobriety. You absolutely can, and many alcoholics do, successfully.

Alcoholism is considered a chronic disease, which is why relapse is so common. A relapse doesn’t mean your treatment program has failed, but it could mean that you need to approach your recovery in a different way, or put in more work to make sure you avoid relapsing again.

The longer you can abstain from alcohol, the higher your chances of a long-term, successful recovery as well.

For example, while people who are less than a year sober have relapse rates of nearly 80% according to some research, the relapse rates drop with two years of sobriety, and with five years of sobriety. At that point, the relapse rates are only around 15%.

If you feel like you could be at risk of relapsing, take a step back and go back to your coping strategies you worked on during recovery. This could include finding a healthy outlet like exercise, contacting someone who you rely on for support, or attending a 12-step meeting.

Relapse Warning Signs and Triggers
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