How to Cope After a Relapse

• Relapse commonly occurs during AUD recovery — up to 60 percent of patients experience at least one relapse episode
• Relapse is a complex phenomenon with emotional, mental, and physical elements
• Common relapse triggers include stress, exposure to alcohol, social isolation and interpersonal issues
• Several tools are available to help manage AUD and relapse, including Soberlink and various online resources

Relapse can be one of the most upsetting experiences you face during recovery. It may feel like a personal failure on your part or a letdown to your loved ones. 

However, relapses are quite common, and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a disease — it is not a moral failing. Just like any other disease, Addiction Treatment is no different in that recovery may require treatment modifications along with a continued effort to remain focused on sobriety.

Facts about Relapse

There is a lot of misunderstanding around relapse, why it happens, and how long it lasts. Here are some important facts to help you realize that relapse is a more common occurrence than most people think.

A study conducted by the American Medical Association Journal revealed that 40 to 60 percent of people relapse at least once, even after undergoing Addiction Treatment.

According to NIDA, relapse rates for addiction are similar to those for other chronic diseases such as hypertension (50 to 70 percent) and asthma (50 and 70 percent).

An article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shows that relapse does not usually occur as a single event. It often involves a combination of emotional, mental, and physical factors.

Let us look at how each of these factors leads to a relapse.

Emotional relapse 

During this stage, individuals in recovery start to experience triggering emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression. Signs of emotional relapse can range from isolation, not attending meetings, poor eating, erratic sleeping habits, and neglecting self-care.

Mental relapse

Mental relapse involves a personal struggle in which someone who abuses alcohol experiences two warring sides. One part wants to remain in recovery, but the other part continues to crave alcohol. Signs of mental relapse include thinking about people or places associated with past alcohol use, cravings for alcohol, and looking for opportunities to drink. 

Physical relapse 

Physical relapse involves the actual use of alcohol, breaking the period of abstinence. It may begin as a slip where one has one drink but often leads to a full-blown relapse where it becomes extremely difficult to control alcohol intake.

Recognizing Your Triggers

Recognizing the warning signs before a relapse takes place is one of the most effective ways to prevent another relapse. Some of the most common triggers include:


Stress brings about a wide range of effects on the mind and body. Ongoing high levels of stress make coping difficult, and this makes it harder to avoid relapse. The more control a person has over their emotions, the more likely they will prevent feeling triggered to drink when a stressful situation arises.

Possible stressors include a job interview, an unexpected bill, confrontation with a loved one, health problems, job loss, and COVID-19 related stress.

Exposure to alcohol

Liquor stores across the nation remained open as essential businesses despite lockdown orders. Social media feeds are saturated with posts that normalize drinking, possibly adding to the temptation. Furthermore, encountering people or places that you associate with alcohol can produce intense cravings that may result in a relapse.

Social isolation

Disrupted routines and lack of community during the pandemic posed additional challenges for many individuals’ recovery process. In many cases, social distancing and stay-at-home orders led to physical isolation, creating key problems for those recovering from AUD. 

Interpersonal issues

Healthy interpersonal relationships are often vital to a successful recovery. On the other hand, conflict in our relationships can sometimes lead to emotional instability. For example, discord and disagreements with our friends and family often provoke intense emotions, and if you have no way to cope, it could lead to a relapse.

Alcohol Use Disorder Is Not a Moral Failing

Avoiding or managing the triggers discussed above can be challenging. There are times when some triggers will be out of your control. Environmental stressors such as job loss, the loss of a loved one, or even the COVID-19 pandemic are factors you cannot control. These issues often result in feelings of sadness or grief, and alcohol often serves to escape these overwhelming feelings, possibly leading to a relapse.

However, AUD is a chronic disease, and like treatment for other conditions, Addiction Treatment may involve medication, ongoing checkups, and making healthy lifestyle changes. 

Tools to Help Recognize Patterns

Accountability is often what will help sustain progress during recovery. Fortunately, there are many valuable tools to help recognize trigger patterns and keep you on track.


HALT is an acronym used to describe high-risk situations when in recovery. It stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. It helps individuals become aware of emotions that may lead to a relapse. To avoid them, individuals may benefit from creating a meal plan, attending support groups, and making sure they stick to a consistent sleep schedule.


Soberlink provides a way for individuals to remain accountable for themselves and those in their Recovery Circle. A relapse can bring about feelings of skepticism around loved ones that may bring about pain, distrust, and cause strain. 

However, having documented proof that you’re doing your best to maintain sobriety can help rebuild trust among those closest to you. Soberlink’s remote alcohol monitoring system combines a professional-grade remote breathalyzer and wireless connectivity to document and provide proof of sobriety in real-time.

The alcohol testing device is hand-held, discreet, and functional for everyday life. It features tamper-detection technology equipped with facial recognition software and provides Advanced Reporting capabilities for easy-to-digest testing data.

Soberlink helps individuals struggling with AUD track their milestones and remain accountable. The system also provides a sense of accomplishment when looking back at reports to measure progress, appreciating how far you have come. 

Creating a Path Forward

When a relapse takes place, most people tend to hide the experience from loved ones. However, this is when individuals typically need their support the most. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable with your Recovery Circle and open up about relapse or the potential for one. A support network wants what is best for you and care about your well-being. So make a point of staying in touch with loved ones through text or video chats.

Even though it is not possible to physically attend group meetings, individuals can do so online. Online alcohol recovery groups provide many of the same benefits as group meetings. They make it possible to keep working on your recovery goals even when in-person meeting opportunities are limited. Also, they offer the added benefit of being available around the clock, so you can get access to the help you need when you need it.


Continuing the effort you have already put into your recovery journey along with the accountability that tools like Soberlink provide can make it easier to get back on track and avoid future slips or relapses.

It is important to remember that AUD is a disease, not a moral failure. Relapses are often part of the disorder and can be effectively addressed with proper treatment, technology, and care. 

Learn more from Soberlink

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