Are you or someone you know on the journey to recovering from addiction?

It’s a tough road, but it’s important to remember that relapse is a regular and often likely part of recovery.

But what exactly does relapse mean for a recovering addict?

You will learn more about relapses, their potential causes, and how to minimize the risk of relapsing and stay on track toward long-term recovery.

What Is Relapse?

Relapse is a regular and often expected part of the recovery process. It is a return to substance use after abstinence or sobriety. Research suggests that between 40% and 60% of patients in recovery will experience at least one relapse.

Relapse can occur anytime during your recovery journey, from early to late into sobriety.

Relapse is not failure but rather an opportunity to learn and grow in recovery.

Why Do People Relapse?

Addiction affects your brain’s reward system and impairs decision-making, making resisting cravings and temptation challenging.

A variety of factors often trigger a relapse. Some common triggers include;

  1. Stressful life events: Major life changes such as divorce, job loss, or financial difficulties can be stressful and increase the risk of relapse.
  2. Being in social situations where drugs or alcohol are present can be a trigger if in the early stages.
  3. Negative emotions: Strong emotions such as sadness, anger, and frustration can be difficult to manage and may trigger a desire to use substances as a coping mechanism.
  4. Mental health issues: If you have co-occurring mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, you may be more susceptible to relapse.
  5. Cravings: After a period of abstinence, your brain may still crave the drug substances you used to use, which can make it difficult to resist.

Impact of Relapse on Recovery

If you have already started your road to recovery, relapse can have significant emotional and psychological effects on you.

When you relapse on recovery, you might experience the following;

  1. Feelings of guilt and shame lead to a sense of failure and disappointment.
  2. Loss of confidence
  3. You may have a lower tolerance for the substance, increasing the risk of overdose or other health complications.
  4. Relapse can damage relationships with loved ones and make it more difficult to rebuild trust.
  5. Financial strain: Relapse can lead to economic strain, particularly if you require further treatment or support.

While we can view relapse as a setback in recovery, it does not necessarily mean you cannot achieve long-term sobriety. With the proper support and tools, it is possible to learn from the relapse and continue on the path of recovery.

Coping With Relapse

If you have already experienced a relapse, seeking support and guidance is essential to help you get back on track. Here are some tips for coping with relapse:

  • Consider contacting a therapist or support group to help you process your emotions and develop a plan for moving forward.
  • Be kind to yourself: Relapse is a setback, not a failure. Practice self-compassion and avoid harsh self-judgment.
  • Use relapse as a learning opportunity: Take time to reflect on factors that contributed to the Relapse and use this as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Get back on track: Revisit your recovery plan and make necessary adjustments. Focus on developing healthy coping strategies and avoiding triggers.


Relapse is a common and often frustrating experience in recovery. However, it’s important to remember that relapse does not have to be the end of the road. With the right tools and support, learning from a relapse and continuing on the path to long-term sobriety is possible. Understanding relapse’s potential triggers and impact, seeking professional help and support, and developing healthy coping strategies, you can navigate setbacks and achieve lasting success.