Nine Common Relapse Triggers and How to Avoid it with Healthy Habits

December 01, 2022

You’ve worked hard to get sober and feel good about your life. But what happens if you relapse and start using drugs or drinking again? It is a common occurrence among those in recovery, but it is not a sign of failure. It is an opportunity to understand yourself better so you can build a foundation that reduces the risk of relapse in the future. Relapsing is nothing to fear, but there are things you can do to avoid it. This article will outline some of the most common triggers and provide healthy habits you can adopt today to continue your life without drugs and alcohol.

Understanding Addiction and Relapse

Addiction issues might emerge when addictive chemicals activate the brain’s motivational mechanisms. Addiction is a mental disease that leads individuals to fight against their thoughts and urges to use substances. Both biological factors and environmental factors may contribute. Even after making progress toward sobriety, people will likely relapse and begin drinking or using drugs again due to intense cravings.


The neural mechanisms that govern cravings, or the desire to use a drug, are not entirely understood. However, cravings are believed to be a combination of biological and psychological factors. To better understand cravings, researchers are exploring their physical foundations. It is thought that cravings originate in the Mesolimbic pathway, which is a pathway that is associated with pleasure and reward.


The uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal and cravings may be too difficult to manage without additional help. Many people who try to quit drinking or using drugs alone are more likely to relapse without proper support. Medications, therapy, or a combination of both can help prevent relapse. Seeking help sooner rather than later can reduce the risk of relapsing or even an accidental overdose if you self-medicate to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Common Relapse Triggers

Anything can potentially trigger a relapse, but here are some of the most common reasons a person may start drinking or using substances again.


While it may hurt to tell the truth, it is essential to your health and rehabilitation in the long term. If you refuse to own your mistakes and accept blame, you will never break the cycle of addiction. If you've been a habitual liar for a long time, you may find it challenging to change your ways.


Stress is one of the most common causes of relapse in those recovering from addiction. When we think of stress, we usually think of it as the result of adversity, yet happy events may also cause tension. Even if you can't eliminate stress from your life, you can arm yourself with the tools you need to manage it.


When we wallow in self-pity, we use our negative ideas about the past as an excuse to indulge in harmful behaviors like binge drinking or drug use. When you dwell on the unpleasant things that have happened to you in the past, it's hard to look forward and work on bettering yourself.

High expectations of others

A sure way to feel let down by a loved one, friend, acquaintance, or coworker is to have unrealistic expectations of them. Focus on mending and rebuilding your connections one day at a time instead of putting undue pressure on your loved ones to fix everything at once. Realize that faults are a normal part of human experience.


There is a nuance between self-confidence and arrogance when setting limits and asserting dominance. If you let your perception get skewed, you risk being overconfident and entertaining absurd ideas. The road to sobriety requires a sane dose of self-respect and a healthy dose of modesty.

Exposure to an addictive substance, whether visual or sensory

Everywhere you look, individuals may be drinking cocktails, or there are other reminders of the drugs you formerly took. Focusing on the new life you're creating, and the adjustments you're making will help you prevent relapse. A go-to coping mechanism, like a yoga class or a relaxing bath, could greatly aid in warding off these temptations.

Unrealistic expectations for yourself

The road to recovery is a lengthy one. While attending a rehab program for substance misuse will not "fix" your addiction, it will provide you with the means to lead a healthier lifestyle. Try to remember that not every day of recovery will be smooth sailing. You'll have to put in a great effort, but protecting your life is always a worthy goal.


Even happy events like birthdays and holidays might set off a relapse. For example, you could think you're OK after only one drink. However, do you think you'll be able to keep it under control? People who are battling addiction often lose the ability to self-regulate. When you're feeling vulnerable to relapse, having a friend at your side may be a great comfort.

Challenging or unpleasant emotions

People with substance or alcohol use disorder require strategies for coping with and understanding the undesirable emotions they will experience regularly. Taking stock of your feelings and pondering their origins is a great way to get to know yourself better. Consult an addictions counselor or other mental health professional for guidance in developing healthier coping mechanisms.

Good Habits to Adopt During Recovery 

Quitting alcohol or drugs does not only mean abstinence. It involves a new routine and lifestyle focused on making healthier choices. Here are a few suggestions for habits you can start forming today.

New Focus

Two excellent distractions are taking up a new hobby or enrolling in a class to hone an existing one. You may also meet up with others who understand what you're going through and provide support. Self-help books have been shown to increase drive, boost self-esteem, and rewire the brain for more positive thinking.


If you have a co-occurring condition like depression or anxiety and a substance use problem, exercising may help you just as much as medication. Like being under the influence of drugs, serotonin and dopamine are produced in the brain during exercise.  Improving general physical fitness is also helpful in reversing the effects of substance abuse.


Addiction often stems from a person's failure to cope with a traumatic or painful incident. A person's mental health, losing a loved one, abuse or neglect in childhood, or a failing marriage are all scenarios. Due to the importance of these underlying problems, therapy plays a pivotal role in the process of addiction rehabilitation. The probability of a successful recovery may be increased by learning about one's addiction and the events that cause it.


When practiced daily, self-care may help you recover from the stresses of life. It's crucial to make time for the things that bring you joy while limiting your exposure to the things that deplete you or get you down. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to positively affect recovery rates when utilized as a supplement to standard care. Substance abuse problems and physical and mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, have been demonstrated to benefit from it. Self-care is also critical in preventing emotional relapse during the recovery process.

Support Circle

A person has a better chance of achieving a complete recovery with positive, encouraging relationships. Friends and family are the most significant people to lean on for encouragement, but those who have overcome addiction may also be incredibly helpful. Strength and comfort may be found in the company of individuals who can relate to your situation.

Develop a relapse prevention plan

Developing a documented, individualized plan is one effective strategy for lowering the likelihood of a relapse. Internal triggers (e.g., particular thoughts, feelings, actions, and attitudes connected to drug use), external triggers (e.g., situations in which you may be tempted to use), and healthy coping skills are standard components of relapse prevention plans. When relapse risk factors and warning signs are engaged, your individualized plan will contain steps to take to prevent a relapse.

New Habits Mean a New Normal

Eating healthy and getting enough sleep are other healthy habits you can develop to avoid relapse and maintain your new lifestyle. Most importantly, find meaningful activities that give you a sense of meaning and purpose.


If you have started drinking or using drugs after a period of abstinence, an alcohol and substance use disorder recovery center like Wish Recovery may be able to help you get back on track with world-class addiction treatment. You’ll learn tools to manage stress and make healthy choices to avoid relapses in the future. Contact us today for more information.

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