Recovery Relapse

Relapse can be part of the recovery process, but it does not have to be. Someone doesn’t suddenly relapse. An insight of the neuroscientific process of addiction, or how addiction works in the brain, has found that relapse is a process, not a spontaneous and episodic lack in judgment. Learning to stay sober is a daily practice. Each day you are tasked to use the tools and practices you have learned through treatment, twelve-step meetings, and therapy as a defense against that first drink. As any alcoholic or addict knows, there is no such thing as just one drink or drug. Staying away from that first hit or sip is insurance against hours, days, weeks, months, or years of relapse. Like playing a sport, playing an instrument, or even being a doctor, it takes a commitment to using the tools, constantly learning, and being willing to be proven wrong on a daily basis.


Everyone is vulnerable to relapse in recovery because that is the nature of the disease of alcoholism. Addiction and alcoholism are chronic relapsing and remitting diseases. However, long-term and even lifetime sobriety are possible. It happens to thousands of people. Here are some things you need to know about relapse:

The Longer You Stay Sober, The Less Your Chance Of Relapse

Recovery RelapseSome might disagree with that statement based on principle. Based on scientific research, however, some longitudinal studies have found that people with longer time sober are less likely to relapse. Sobriety and recovery become integrated into their lifestyles and they continue valuing the work of recovery. People who continuously relapse within the first 18 months of recovery have a harder time staying sober. For their brains and body chemistry, their last drink or drug is not far behind them. The memories of using and the associated reward programmed in the brain never gets a chance to heal. When cravings hit and they go back to active using over and over again, the reward association in the brain only gets stronger.

Stress Can Cause Recovery Relapse

What “causes” recovery relapse is a dangerous conversation. Many view relapse as both a process and a choice. In recovery, you are given the freedom of choices. You can choose to stay sober even during the most difficult, stressful times. Before picking up a drink you have a choice to walk away, call a friend, get a ride, or take some kind of action against picking up again. Stress can be caused by just about anything we want to label as stress. Brain research has found that for recovering addicts and alcoholics stress is a trigger for cravings in the brain, which cause mental as well as physical signals for drugs and alcohol use. That is why treatment and therapy are paramount for recovery. Tools for reducing stress, managing stress, and letting go of stress can be the difference between recovery relapse and staying sober.


If you have relapsed and need to come back to recovery, that is okay. You haven’t failed and you have nothing to be ashamed of. The most important thing when in recovery relapse is coming back and getting on track to sobriety again. Get Real Recovery offers residential detox, inpatient, and outpatient programs. For more information, call us today at 866-983-3651.

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