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Posted on 2nd February 2022

5 common reasons for relapsing when quitting drink or drugs

The first thing to know is that you HAVE NOT failed. When you are looking at the reasons you relapsed or succumbed and didn’t stay sober in the new year as long as you wanted, just know that it’s not easy.  Plus, a ‘long time’ is relative to everyone; not drinking or taking drugs for just a day can be an enormous achievement for someone and should still be celebrated.

So in this blog we are going to look at factors which next time, if identified early enough, could help your next spell of sobriety last that big longer, and one day be a permanent state, whether that be drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

A relapse begins long before you decide to have that drink or use. Triggers are affecting you without your knowledge and that is what makes them dangerous, and why you need to learn to identify them.


Here are  5 reasons we relapse (and how to combat them)

  1. Stress & Anxiety

Stress/anxiety is generally based around something you fear is going to happen and it is usually around failure, guilt, shame or worry around repeating past perceived failures. What language are you using to yourself?

Stress is a massive factor in relapsing, especially if drinking or drug taking had become your main method of coping with life in the first place.

For example, the financial hardship of January after Christmas could be a trigger which leaves you experiencing ‘cravings’ for the familiarity and perceived safety that comes with drinking or taking drugs.

Why not try….

Healthier releases of stress, such as exercise, talking to people and taking a moment to ensure your priorities and uses of time align with what makes you feel good. Remember anxiety is often short lived and grounding yourself will help get through the perceived fear. Breathing techniques are good for this.


2) Wrong place, wrong people

Particularly in the early stages living your life free from drink or drugs, it’s important to distance yourself from the places and the people you associate with drinking or using as they can be a trigger, no matter how strong or determined you may be feeling at that time.


Why not try…

Creating a plan to help avoid these people or places before well in advance. Don’t simply trust yourself to do the right thing because well established habits and pathways are hard to fight against.


3) Depression and low mood

Depression is generally past based, on trauma that has not been reconciled. It is usually reliving an event or emotion from the past and bringing it to your present experience. This will result in a feeling of worthlessness, despair and what’s the point?


This is similar to how stress increases the likelihood of relapse, but instead of drinking or using being a short term coping mechanism to alleviate the emotion of stress, it is used here to numb or detach yourself from the feeling of low mood all together.


Why not try…

Having a conversation with yourself to establish if there was a trigger for this spell of low mood and then, more importantly, agreeing that low mood doesn’t have to mean drinking or taking drugs.  So strong is the link between the two, that for many people it’s not even challenged that a spell of low mood is a trigger for relapse. A really good way to help with depression is do something for someone else. Volunteering perhaps. The sense of purpose and helping someone else will help give new evidence that your are not worthless.


4) Avoid physical reminders

Just seeing a visual reminder of whatever it is you are trying to eliminate from your life can begin the cycle of relapse. Even if it’s days later, just seeing something linked to it can put the wheels in motion.

Avoiding alcohol is very difficult indeed as it’s everywhere – just going around the supermarket confronts you with it. Similarly innocuous items that double up as drug paraphernalia can begin the process of a relapse, such as the heroin addict who can’t help but think of using when they see tin foil.


Why not try…

Doing a full audit of your life, surroundings and living environment to eliminate as many visual prompts as possible. For example, sign up to have your food shop delivered so you don’t have to see the drinks aisles and the various alcohol offers they have scatted around supermarkets. If you are cutting back on cocaine, do you need to keep talc amongst your cosmetics because that means you are seeing a white powder every day, morning and night. Sounds minor but it’s a visual reminder of the exact thing you are trying to forget.


5.) Events, parties and important dates

These are especially dangerous for someone who lives with the threat of relapse because they are more often than not fun and positive occasions, meaning you feel in control and a thousand miles away from the negative impacts you’ve learnt to associate with drinking or drug use.

The ‘just have one’ approach can easily spiral.


Why not try…

Confiding in someone. Having a trusted friend or family member by your side can really help deflect attention from why you might not be drinking or using, plus they can help to dissuade you from temptation. Alternatively, just don’t go to the function at all. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever socialise again, but in the early days of your new healthy lifestyle it might be worth simply removing the risk altogether whilst you learn the skill of abstinence (and your new trusted ally can help you with the reason you give for not being there)


If you feel you need help with your drinking or drug use, our Outpatient Private Detox is totally discreet and tailored to you. You don’t need to ‘check in to rehab’; you make a few visits to The Pavilion and then the rest of the treatment is flexible around your life.

Get in touch today for a call back from our friendly, discreet and experienced professionals.


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