How you can best deal with a Relapse when recovering from Alcoholism

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 11th January 2021

How you can best deal with a Relapse when recovering from Alcoholism

Although it can be devastating to relapse at any point in your recovery from alcoholism, this isn’t uncommon and can be dealt with.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, average relapse rates for those in recovery is 40-60%.

However, an eight year study of more than 1000 addicts found that whilst the first year is often the hardest, with only a third of participants remaining abstinent for the entire year, less than 15% of people relapse after 5 years or more of sobriety.

The most important thing for any addict to remember is that relapse isn’t a sign of failure, it is a sign of a disease taking over again.

You have fought the disease before and will do again, and can use your relapse as a learning tool to strengthen you and help your recovery the next time around.


Why do people Relapse?

There are a multitude of reasons that people relapse and this could be a combination of a few factors or one reason only. Factors may include:

  • Losing focus. Commitment to sobriety will need to be your number one focus of every day of the rest of your life. If you lose focus or forget that you are an addict, even for a moment, it is far too easy to fall into bad habits again.
  • Stress. Alcoholics often use alcohol as a stress-management aid, and during times of stress you are in the most danger of turning back to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Bereavement. The most serious stages of grief can make it hard to focus on anything other than your emotions, and alcohol helps to trigger a positive emotional response that makes it feel much easier to cope with a bereavement.
  • Not having wanted to quit in the first place. If you were forced into recovery by family or friends, you are far more likely to relapse. Your commitment isn’t there in the first place so you have no real reason to honour it. You have to want to stop drinking to successfully stop.
  • Difficulty transitioning back into your everyday life. It is so easy to fall into old habits when you return home, especially if you are still spending time around the same old drinking buddies that you were before. A proper relapse recovery plan is essential to help you to avoid this.


The three stages of Relapse

Emotional relapse

Whilst physical recovery from alcohol addiction can take a few days or weeks, your emotional recovery can take much much longer.

PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) is a collection of emotional reactions you might go through whilst in recovery. When you are suffering from this you are far more at risk of drinking again.

Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Anhedonia (feeling unable to take pleasure in anything)
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Isolation
  • Defensiveness

Mental relapse

This second stage is the tug of war between the part of you that wants to give up on your recovery and have a drink, and the side that wants to stay sober. This is a risky stage as it is mostly internal and will be difficult to spot by family, friends and medical professionals.

During this stage you might start to feel nostalgic or reminisce about the ‘good times’ you’ve had when drinking.

Physical relapse

At this point you actually take a drink. Don’t give up just because you have physically relapsed! There are ways back from any stage.


What to do if you have Relapsed

Accept it

Avoid all-or-nothing thinking patterns. You are not the first person in the world to relapse and you are better off getting help as soon as you can than giving up altogether. You need to remind yourself of how far you have already come in your recovery process, and how much stronger you are today than you were at the beginning of your recovery.

Reach out to loved ones

Your family and friends want you to be better just as much as you do, and can offer you strength when you don’t feel that you have any. Try to book yourself into family counselling where you can see how your behaviour and addiction has affected not only you, but the people around you as well.

Go back into treatment

This could mean stepping up outpatient clinics and meetings, or going back into rehab. It depends how serious your relapse was and how you are feeling now.


Your Relapse Prevention Plan

If you decide to go back into treatment, your doctors will be able to put together a relapse prevention plan for you. This may be the same, but is more likely to escalate your treatment, and will include:

  • Stabilisation. Getting you to a point that you are sober and in control.
  • Assessment. This would be the same as your first assessments, and is used to work out what treatments are necessary for you.
  • Relapse education. This teaches you that this is normal and common to relapse, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of. It also helps you to decide how best to tackle treatment this time.
  • Identifying warning signs. How to spot your own triggers and avoid them, as well as act on warning signs that you are about to relapse.
  • A new recovery plan.
  • Inventory training. How to take a quick mind and body scan throughout the day to see how you are feeling and what triggers you might come up against.. You can also note these at the end of the day and how you overcame them.


How can Cassiobury Court support you?

Opened in 2011 and operated by the Step One Recovery rehab clinics group, Cassiobury Court has supported over 3000 clients to successfully complete rehab programmes, working closely with friends and family as well as the clients themselves.

We engineer a collaborative, tailored approach to recovery which takes into account your specific needs, to introduce a recovery plan that will make you feel confident and comfortable.

Our stunning residential facility offers 20 private bedrooms and a range of therapies, combining counselling, psychological therapies and alternative therapies. This includes yoga, physical activities, crafts and social activities.

Our team of qualified therapists are there to help you to come to terms with your addiction and its triggers, and work to get you back into your day to day life without struggling.

You can find out more about addiction and why you are suffering from it, and then learn coping mechanisms for the future.

You can get in touch with us today or text HELP to 83222.

John Gillen

John Gillen - Author Last updated: 11th January 2021

John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.