Alcohol Relapse – The Risks & The Signs

Published On: March 3, 20154.1 min read820 wordsCategories: Addiction Treatment And Rehab

Recovery from alcohol abuse and/or addiction is an ongoing journey — it takes time, perseverance and strong determination to leave behind one lifestyle and embrace a healthier one in its place. And while many people desire this change for themselves, the way addiction impacts the brain can make recovery a difficult undertaking.

This does not mean that recovery should not be an option; everyone struggling with addiction should be encouraged to pursue recovery. What it does mean is that those in recovery should be gentle with themselves and understand that good days and bad days are possible. There are some days where a lapse might occur — and there may be other times when relapse happens, too. The key to avoiding and/or recovering from relapse lies in understanding what it is, knowing the risks and having the right tools to continue on in your journey no matter the setback.

Alcohol relapse vs. lapse

Think of a lapse in recovery as a one-time slip — if your goal is full sobriety, a lapse might entail drinking at a party one night, or consuming alcohol when you resolved to not. However, this one-time slip is isolated, meaning it does not spiral into a habit or a routine of drinking regularly. You can quickly identify the lapse, recommit yourself to sobriety and continue on towards your goal without the drinking happening again.

A relapse, on the other hand, is a complete return to the previous bad habits which characterized the addiction. This could mean returning to people and places that encouraged bad habits, or finding that the alcohol has once again begun to interfere with your ability to perform everyday tasks, like school or work. A relapse may be premeditated, where your emotions and mentality begin to crave alcohol and tempt you to return to use before you physically do so.

Signs of alcohol relapse

A relapse doesn’t just suddenly happen overnight. The three stages of relapse (emotional, mental and physical relapsing) occur in a process as a commitment to recovery starts to dwindle. You may experience signs of relapse like fantasizing about using or promising yourself that it won’t be as bad this time around before a full physical relapse occurs.

These signs may begin to arise as a result of certain factors in your environment that will put you at higher risk for alcohol relapse. Keeping an eye out for these risk factors can help you minimize those things known to trigger a relapse.


Unbridled stress can lead even the strongest of individuals to return to alcohol use in order to try and cope with painful emotions. If you feel overwhelmed with stress, do what you can to minimize it in a healthy way. Maybe it’s considering finding a new job; perhaps there are toxic people in your life you should take a step back from. No matter what it is, if you find yourself unable to cope on your own, reach out for help sooner rather than later.

Routine breakdown

If your routine begins to go awry, you might feel yourself slipping into old habits. Not sleeping enough, eating poorly and neglecting exercise can all lead to relapse over time. Seek support from a friend or therapist and ask for their help in keeping you accountable as you reestablish routine in your life.

External triggers

People and places can be a big warning sign of relapse—if you begin hanging around people you used to drink with, or those who encourage the lifestyle, or return to environments where you used to drink, you might feel your resolve to recovery slip. For this reason, it’s important to minimize your exposure to these things. It’s not being rude: it’s being prudent and prioritizing your health and wellness.

Mental health

Mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia, if left untreated, can be a significant risk factor in relapse. In order to prevent relapse from occurring as a result of an untreated mental health condition, it’s crucial to continue receiving therapy after inpatient treatment to help you cope with any complications a mental health condition may present.

Relapse isn’t a failure

Sources state that nearly 90 percent of people relapse in the four years following alcohol treatment – but even though the alcohol relapse rate is very high, it should not discourage you from seeking treatment and pursuing recovery. In fact, it should motivate you to seek treatment in order to give you the tools you need to have in case of a relapse.

If you are concerned about a potential relapse in your life or want to begin the journey towards freedom from addiction today, help is available. At Freedom Detox, our staff of medical and mental health professionals is here to help you set and achieve personalized recovery goals. Contact Freedom Detox today to get started on the road to recovery by visiting our website or calling us anytime at 800-475-2312.

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