Last Updated on April 22, 2021
Alcohol use disorder is a serious condition. Recovery takes time, patience, and perseverance. While some people never relapse after getting sober or reducing their alcohol consumption, many people experience setbacks. You can recover, even if you’ve experienced this challenging obstacle. Relapse is an opportunity to better understand yourself and your journey. It may even help you find a recovery plan that works for you.
What Does Relapse Feel Like?
No matter how far along you are in your recovery journey, the risk of relapse is always there. Knowing the warning signs and what relapse feels like can help you avoid it.
For most people, relapse is a process—not a singular event. It consists of three stages, and often begins weeks or months before you take a drink or exceed your chosen limits.
- Emotional relapse: This stage is the initial part of the struggle. Instead of relying on healthy coping mechanisms, an emotional relapse could include isolating yourself from others, bottling your feelings, or neglecting your self-care.
- Mental relapse: Even if you wish to remain sober, you may struggle with thoughts and cravings. Mental relapse could involve glorifying past alcohol use or fantasizing about going back to old drinking behaviors.
- Physical relapse: Taking a drink, or breaking your chosen drinking limits, is the final step of an alcohol relapse. Depending on whether you’ve chosen abstinence or moderation, the physical stage could be one drink, or an uncontrollable binge.
What Are Some Alcohol Relapse Predictors?
Those who relapse often struggle for days, weeks, or even months leading up to the physical act of drinking. Realizing that you’re struggling to maintain control and identifying triggers can help predict whether you’re at risk of relapse. Triggers are difficult thoughts, painful emotions, memories, and experiences that challenge your ability to cope without excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol relapse predictors can include:
- High stress levels
- Conflict with family or friends
- Peer pressure from others to use alcohol
- Being around people or places you associate with alcohol misuse
- Lack of social and professional support
- Emotional pain
- Physical pain due to injury or medical issues
- Doubt in your ability to remain sober or maintain healthy habits
- Celebrations or events that serve alcohol
Can I Avoid or Prevent Alcohol Relapse?
Regardless of the triggers you encounter, the intensity of your cravings, or how many times you’ve experienced relapse, you can strengthen your resolve, support your lifestyle changes, and avoid alcohol relapse:
- Stop white-knuckling it: When it comes to your recovery, going it alone and using sheer willpower can be more challenging than finding support and treatment.
- Participate in alcohol treatment: Relapse rates for those in a recovery program are significantly lower1 than those who attempt to heal independently.
- Avoid triggering situations: Be aware of the places or situations where you may feel tempted to drink excessively again.
- Encourage healthy relationships: End toxic relationships and encourage bonds with those who support your sobriety or reduced alcohol consumption.
- Understand your triggers: Know the thoughts and feelings that put you most at risk, and develop strategies to overcome them.
- Focus on your health: From getting plenty of rest to eating healthy meals, self-care is an essential part of recovery.
Prevent Relapse With Ria Health
Whether you’ve already relapsed, or you’re concerned about slipping back into old drinking habits, structured treatment and medication can make a big difference. And if the usual options don’t feel like a good fit, there are alternative alcohol addiction treatment programs available.
Ria Health is one option that differs from Alcoholics Anonymous and traditional rehab. We offer an accessible online addiction treatment program that can help you stop or reduce your alcohol cravings from the comfort of home. Our evidence-based approach includes both moderation and abstinence as options, and can help you gradually reduce your drinking over time.
This can reduce the severity of a relapse, or help you reframe it as part of a larger process. A moderation-based approach, for example, can make having a single drink feel like less of a major failure, reducing the chance that you’ll spiral into guilt and full-blown relapse. And if you do find yourself binging again after cutting back, our team can help you get back on track, and even readjust treatment to better meet your needs.
On top of this, the Ria Health mobile app lets you access support from anywhere. Weekly meetings with an online recovery coach can help you better understand your drinking habits, and a digital breathalyzer helps you track your drinking over time. Medications to reduce cravings, and thereby reduce your chances of relapse, are also available.
Best of all, Ria’s program is designed to support you for the long haul. Many members stay with us up to a year, establishing lasting change through all the ups and downs. Learn more about how our program works or reach out to a member of our team.