Preventing Alcohol Relapse



Alcohol relapses are not uncommon among recovering alcoholics. Approximately 90 percent of alcoholics will experience one or more relapses during the four years after treatment, according to a publication from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. While avoiding situations that could trigger a relapse is an excellent first step, building skills to successfully address triggers and avoid alcohol is also important. Support groups, therapy and medication are a few methods of continuing care that can help prevent a relapse even when someone is faced with a potent trigger.


Alcohol relapse is caused by one of three possible categories of triggers. The first trigger is exposure to small amounts of alcohol. This alcohol could be in food or otherwise consumed unknowingly. Sometimes people may also consume small amounts of alcohol after abstaining to test their own ability to drink moderately.

Alcohol relapse can also be caused by environmental triggers. These types of triggers often occur when someone visits a place, talks to a person, or attempts an activity that the recovering alcoholic once associated with drinking. Environmental triggers often remind recovering alcoholics of any good times they formerly associate with drinking. Because environmental triggers can be so far-reaching, they can be very difficult to completely avoid. One particular type of environmental pressure, social pressure, contributed to over 20 percent of relapse episodes, according to a 1996 study by G.A. Marlatt published in The American Psychiatric Press Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment.

The third trigger is stress. Many alcoholics use alcohol as a way to address stressful feelings. When a stressful event occurs, a recovering alcoholic may return to old patterns and begin drinking again. Living a completely stress-free life is incredibly difficult, so former alcoholics must develop ways to cope with stress without returning to addiction.

Studies suggest that people who are dependent on alcohol are also more sensitive to these types of stimuli, which can make abstaining from alcohol even more difficult for them. If you or a loved one is experiencing a relapse, call 1-855-394-1150 to discuss possible rehab and recovery treatment options.

12-Step Programs

Alcoholics AnonymousAlcoholics Anonymous can help prevent alcohol relapse by providing support and encouraging former alcoholics to take their recoveries seriously. Members of the program recommend a one-day-at-a-time philosophy, which lets recovering alcoholics focus on battling their addictions on a daily basis rather than worrying about the future. AA members discuss their own struggles with alcohol during meetings. By listening to other sober alcoholics, newly recovering alcoholics can learn how to deal with possible triggers and avoid relapse.

AA also encourages members to follow or work their 12-step program. These 12 steps are a list of suggested ideas and actions to help recovering alcoholics mend their lives and stay sober. Members are encouraged to begin with the first step and slowly work through each step individually, rather than attempting them all at once.

Members of AA can sponsor newly sober alcoholics to help them recover and prevent relapse. Sponsors have already finished the 12 steps and been sober for a long period of time. Sponsors help newer members navigate their specific life challenges by using the experience they acquired through their own struggles with addiction. If you are concerned that you’re losing your struggle with alcohol addiction, don’t give up. Instead, call 1-855-394-1150 to find out possible ways to recover.


Cognitive behavioral therapy can help recovering alcoholics build the skills necessary to avoid alcohol. People may relapse because they don’t know how to respond to social pressure to drink or haven’t addressed the negative emotions or conflict that led to drinking. Through therapy, either as an individual or in a group setting, a recovering alcoholic can learn how to respond to stress and environmental triggers. People in recovery who experience a high-risk situation that could trigger a relapse learn how to successfully cope with the situation. If they successfully handle these high-risk situations, recovering alcoholics feel increasingly self-sufficient. These feelings can reduce the chance of a relapse.

Therapy can also help recovering alcoholics prevent a single slip from becoming a complete relapse. Alcoholics who view a single slip as a personal failure, which can cause guilt and shame, often have a full relapse as a result. Recovering alcoholics who believe that a slip was due to circumstances beyond their control are also at great risk for a complete relapse. Therapy can help recovering alcoholics view a single slip as an inability to properly cope with a specific high-risk situation. Then a therapist can help the recovering addict gain the necessary coping skills to successfully address future high-risk situations. If you or a loved one has experienced a slip, it’s important to get help before it turns into a complete relapse. Call 1-855-394-1150 for information that can help you at any stage in the recovery process.


In some cases, medication can be prescribed to help a recovering alcoholic prevent a relapse. Disulfiram, for example, will cause recovering alcoholics who drink to experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Headache or throbbing in the head or neck
  • Chest pain
  • Flushing
  • Vomiting
  • Thirst
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid breathing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Vertigo
  • Weakness
  • Uneasiness

Disulfiram is used to train the mind and body to recognize the harmful effects of alcohol and break the positive association a person may have with alcohol; however, not all medications make recovering alcoholics feel sick if they drink. Naltrexone will not cause nausea or other symptoms if someone drinks while being medicated, though recovering alcoholics who take naltrexone have better treatment results and fewer alcohol cravings. Any medication prescribed to prevent a relapse should be discussed with a doctor and should only be used as part of an overall recovery program.

Support, medication and therapy are three powerful options that can help you avoid a relapse into alcoholism. Of course, these solutions only work if you are willing to regularly attend therapy, participate in a support group or take medication as directed by a physician. If you doubt your ability to stay sober without 24-hour help and supervision, you may want to consider attending an inpatient treatment facility. At a facility, you can build the skills you need to cope with alcoholism with the help of dedicated staff members. To learn more about inpatient treatment or other options that can help with an alcohol relapse, call 1-855-394-1150.


Taken from the Article Preventing Alcohol Relapse


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