It may not matter how dedicated you are to being abstinent or how long you have been sober—there is always the possibility of having an alcohol relapse at some point. According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), relapse rates range between 40-60%—or approximately half of all individuals in recovery.
Many people have feelings of shame, guilt, or regret just moments after a relapse. They may feel like surrendering to their addiction rather than starting over and working hard to prevent a relapse from occurring again. These feelings are normal, but they are an additional challenge that individuals face in maintaining an alcohol-free life.
Instead, the best approach is to use this relapse as an event from which to learn. You can tweak your relapse prevention plan as needed and start to re-identify triggers. By diving deeper into the factors that contributed to relapse in the first place, you can build a new recovery foundation that will enable you to bounce back more robust than before.
Causes of Relapse
Relapsing after some period of abstinence is, unfortunately, a common event. As noted, about half of all addicts in recovery will have a moment of weakness that results in alcohol use again. Fortunately, being able to recognize some of the signs can help you prevent this from occurring.
Signs that may predict an imminent relapse include the following:
Failing to Make Abstinence a Priority
Without an unyielding commitment to long-term recovery, a person is more likely to relapse. To succeed, you must be ready to engage in the hard work needed to remain sober. Activities should include attending 12-step peer group support meetings, having a sponsor, and receiving therapy or counseling for co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.
Not Having a Solid Support Network
A newly sober individual requires a solid support system, which is the difference between sustained recovery and relapsing back into alcoholism. Ask friends and family to ensure you are accountable and are active in sober group activities.
Not Being Sober for Yourself
In some cases, a person will enter treatment mainly to please their family or friends or due to probation or other legal issues. Instead of being dedicated to being abstinent for their own sake, they feel pressure to do something they would not do otherwise. Moreover, if an individual does not truly want to quit for themselves, the likelihood of relapse is much higher.
Being Unprepared for Life Following Treatment
It’s essential to devise a relapse prevention plan for transitioning back to the real world after professional treatment. Certain things can easily undermine sobriety, such as family stress and dysfunction, toxic friendships, isolation, and unhealthy habits. By recognizing triggers early on, a person can fight back and help defend his/her newfound sobriety.
What to Do After Relapse
First and foremost, you need to decide if you need to go back to rehab and get professional treatment. If it was an isolated instance, and you’re dedicated to examining and altering your recovery plan, you may not require a stay in an inpatient treatment program.
There are intensive outpatient treatment programs that can help tremendously when a person doesn’t need 24/7 supervision. However, if you’ve retreated back into an extended alcohol abuse pattern, you will want to consider undergoing a relatively strict treatment program.
Moreover, suppose you have been talking about the possibility of using substances or hanging out with individuals who enable your drinking. In that case, these are likely signs that there is a much more significant problem. Likewise, if you return to drinking alcohol as a means of coping or self-medication, you need to seek comprehensive treatment as soon as possible.
Notably, the return to treatment should have a strong emphasis on behavioral therapy, which has successfully taught recovering addicts how to enact new behavioral responses to dysfunctional thoughts and feelings.
Other treatments include art and music therapy, meditation techniques, and health and wellness modalities. Following treatment, you can continue to use these strategies to promote a low-stress life and healthily dealing with depression, anger, and anxiety.
From the moment you begin treatment after an alcohol relapse, your focus should be on returning to everyday life. Your best option may be to stay in a sober living home, in which accountability can help during those first few vulnerable months following treatment. It would also be beneficial to be equipped with an outpatient plan for ongoing therapy or counseling after being discharged from treatment.
Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction
If you have already undergone a professional treatment program and are struggling with the potential of alcohol relapse, fortunately, there is more help available. Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer integrated, research-based treatment for those who suffer from alcohol or drug addictions. Our programs feature essential recovery services, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, art and music therapy, and more.