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The 10 Most Common Alcohol Addiction Relapse Triggers

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

Deciding to get help for an alcohol addiction mustn’t have been easy. It takes courage to admit to yourself that you have a drinking problem, let alone to your loved ones. Now that you are on the road to recovery, there is a more difficult challenge that lies ahead of you – and it is called relapse.

For someone who is trying to stay sober, relapse is when you slide back into the habit of drinking alcohol. It can happen anytime, and to make it worse, it’s usually after you’ve had significant progress that it rears its ugly head. According to a study published on the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 40 to 60 percent of people who are being treated for substance abuse disorders, relapse within the first year of treatment.

But there is hope yet. Research suggests that relapse rates are only high in the first year of rehab. Once you get past the one-year mark, the risk for relapse is reduced by half. Staying sober for longer will further increase your chances of recovery. If you make it to five years, you only have a 15 percent chance of relapse.

To help improve your odds, we’re giving you the 10 most common triggers for alcohol relapse so you’ll know what to avoid.

Ten Relapse Triggers to Avoid – and Tips on How to Stay Sober

1. Keeping to yourself

The guilt and shame that comes with alcohol addiction might have convinced you that isolating yourself is better for your recovery. While it helps to avoid people that encourage you to drink, avoiding everyone altogether isn’t the way to go.

Isolating yourself during this difficult time will only place you in a vulnerable spot. You’ll end up feeling lonely and depressed which makes for a bad combination.

How to stay sober: Instead of isolating yourself, you should connect with friends or family. Look for people who are willing to help you through the recovery process. If that isn’t possible, you can always join support groups and group therapy sessions for alcohol addiction.

2. Social gatherings

If there is anything “social” that you should avoid, it’s gatherings that involve alcohol. You may think that having a drink or two is harmless. But there’s a reason why most alcohol recovery programs are abstinence-based. Studies show that abstinence or quitting alcohol completely gives better chances of recovery than alcohol reduction or avoidance.

How to stay sober: Limit your attendance to ‘clean’ and alcohol-free parties. If you can’t help but be at a party where there’s plenty of drinking, tag someone along who can help you stay sober throughout the night.

3. Negative emotions

Before anything else, we want to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with feeling negative emotions. Feelings such as anger, guilt, sadness, and loneliness are natural human reactions and it is okay to have.

That being said, you shouldn’t allow these feelings to define you, let alone control you. Otherwise, you might start drinking again just to make yourself feel better.

How to stay sober: Talk to your therapist about healthy coping strategies that you can use to deal with difficult emotions. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation usually help.

4. Boredom

This is no ordinary boredom, but the kind that only happens with long-term alcohol addiction. Alcohol, much like any addictive substance, triggers the release of endorphins – hormones that produce feelings of pleasure.

When you stop drinking, the production of endorphins will also stop. Life will seem less interesting for the person in early recovery.

How to stay sober: Engage in hobbies and life skills training programs. Keeping yourself preoccupied with productive activities will give you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

5. Traumatic memories

Studies have long suggested that trauma increases a person’s risk for alcohol addiction.

If you experienced trauma and have previously used alcohol to cope with it, then you should avoid places, people, and situations that trigger painful memories.

Exposing yourself to them will only cause you to relive the traumatic event. For people with post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s more than enough to push you back into relapse.

How to stay sober: Consider getting trauma-based therapy. This will address underlying issues that caused your alcohol problems in the first place.

6. Stress

Stress is a normal part of everyday life. Having too much on your plate, however, will only increase your risk for relapse. This is especially true for people who use alcohol to relieve their stress. Alcohol can change your brain in such a way that whenever you feel stressed, you will crave it.

How to stay sober: Explore stress management therapies so you can “unlearn” your dependence to alcohol. It’s never too late to develop healthier and more effective ways to deal with stress.

7. Hunger

Hunger can increase your stress levels by triggering the release of cortisol and insulin. In turn, this may contribute to alcohol-seeking behavior.

How to stay sober: Eat regularly throughout the day, and start a diet that is low in fat but high in protein, dietary fiber, and complex carbohydrates. These foods will help you recover your health during addiction treatment.

Moreover, try to incorporate foods that are rich in tryptophan – like milk, bananas, sunflower seeds, and turkey meat. Tryptophan is necessary to the production of serotonin, a hormone that encourages sleep and helps reduce stress.

8. Physical exhaustion

Speaking of sleep, try not to exhaust yourself. Recovery is a lifelong process and keeping yourself healthy and well-rested will ensure its success. Getting good quality sleep will allow your body to recover from stress. This can help you avoid the possibility of relapse.

How to stay sober: Learn to manage your time better so you can always make room for uninterrupted sleep. Also, it would help to go to bed at the same time each night so you can naturally set your body clock.

9. Poor mental health

Mental health problems have been linked to alcohol addiction. According to studies, there are people with depression and anxiety who “self-medicate” with alcohol just so they could cope with the symptoms. Unfortunately, alcohol does more harm than good due to its negative effects on brain health.

How to stay sober: Look for rehab centers that offer dual-diagnosis treatments. These programs are designed to treat alcohol addiction while providing therapy for mental health issues that may have caused it.

10. Overconfidence

Finally, don’t overestimate your ability to resist cravings. Get as much help and support as you need from your family, friends, and of course, your therapist.

Recovery Blvd Treatment Center provides treatments for people who are struggling with alcohol addiction in Portland, OR. We can provide you all the support you need for a successful recovery. You can find our drug and alcohol rehab treatment center in 1316 SE 12th Avenue Portland, OR 97214. Call 503-897-1916 for immediate assistance.

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1 Comment

Maeve Lee
Maeve Lee
Jul 06, 2023

Omg really? So basically LIFE itself is a trigger. Let's see..social gatherings, stress, negative emotions. Yep. I'm sure all the twelve stepping will fix all that.

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