Why Did I Relapse?

Relapse During Recover Is Extremely Common

It is very common for addicts to relapse at least once during recovery and some fall off the wagon several times before getting clean for the last time. Understanding what triggers relapse is the first step toward prevention.

1
Stress Is the Leading Cause of Relapse

stressed out woman
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Stress is the top cause of relapse and many addicts turn to their substance of choice as a maladaptive way of coping with it.

You can't eliminate all the stress from your life, but you can avoid situations of negative or extreme stress by making changes in your lifestyle, relationships, and priorities.

You can also learn positive ways to successfully manage the stress, including:

2
People or Places Connected to the Addictive Behavior Can Trigger Relapse

Woman massaging neck
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People who shared your addictive behavior and who are still engaging in it are potential triggers for relapse, even if they are only related to your addiction indirectly.

It is important to have ways to handle your feelings when that happens so that you have another way of coping besides relapsing to your addiction.

Your family members might also be a trigger, even if they were not directly involved because they make you feel more child-like and vulnerable.

3
Negative or Challenging Emotions Can Trigger Relapse

Woman holding head
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Addicts need effective ways of tolerating, managing and making sense of the negative feelings encountered in daily life. Alcohol, drugs or addictive behaviors used to provide temporary relief from those feelings, but you can't rely on them anymore.

An addictions specialist or another mental health professional can help you develop coping strategies.

4
Seeing or Sensing the Object of Your Addiction Triggers Relapse

Cigarette
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A slight reminder of your addiction can trigger relapse during recovery. A whiff of cigarette smoke, watching people sip cocktails in a cafe, and a couple locked in an erotic embrace are reminders that seem to be everywhere in the early stages of quitting.

Having a substitute behavior, as well as doing relaxation techniques, can help you resist these triggers.

5
Times of Celebration

Positive situations, such as birthdays and holidays, can be triggers, too. You feel happy, in control and sure you can handle that one drink, that one smoke or that one mild flirtation with the attractive stranger. But can you keep it under control?

An addict frequently loses their capacity to know when to stop. Therefore, that one drink could turn into a binge or treating yourself to one, unnecessary new pair of shoes could lead to a shopping spree.

Having a buddy can help in situations where you are at risk of relapse. Find someone you trust and respect to kindly but firmly persuade you to stop what you are doing if you do start to relapse. Avoid going into situations where you are at high risk of relapse alone, as you might be surprised how quickly your resolve and good intentions disappear once the party's started.

Sources:

Bowen, et al. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention for Addictive Behaviors. New York: Guilford. 2011.

Hanson, P. The Joy of Stress: How to Make Stress Work for You, Andrews McMeel Publishing. 1987.

Borland, et al. "Predictors of smoking relapse by duration of abstinence: findings from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Four-Country Survey," Addiction,. 2009.

Le Fevre, et al. "Eustress, distress and their interpretation in primary and secondary occupational stress management interventions: which way first?" Journal of Managerial Psychology. 2006.

Bowen, et al. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention for Addictive Behaviors. New York: Guilford. 2011.

Hanson, P. The Joy of Stress: How to Make Stress Work for You, Andrews McMeel Publishing. 1987.

Borland, et al. "Predictors of smoking relapse by duration of abstinence: findings from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Four-Country Survey," Addiction. 2009.

Le Fevre, et al. "Eustress, distress and their interpretation in primary and secondary occupational stress management interventions: which way first?" Journal of Managerial Psychology. 2006.

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