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  • Those recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcohol dependence likely experience ongoing cravings and desires for having a drink. 

    The threat of an alcohol relapse is ever-present and is even expected. To avoid another stint at alcohol rehab or an addiction treatment center, you can recognize the warning signs and states of relapse.

    1. Know The 3 Stages Of Relapse

    There are three stages of relapse: emotional, mental, and physical. An important part of the recovery process is to recognize these stages of addiction relapse as quickly as possible. 

    Emotional Relapse

    When an emotional relapse occurs, the individual who once participated in drug use or alcohol abuse won’t even be thinking about using again. Instead, their behaviors and emotions begin to set them up for a potential relapse.

    Mental Relapse

    Those going through a mental relapse are fighting conflicting thoughts. On one hand, they no longer want to be abstinent from their drug of choice. On the other hand, they want to maintain long-term sobriety, yet still have a fear of relapsing. 

    These two conflicting thoughts battle within the person’s head, causing more stress. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to continue their period of sobriety due to the mental health struggles that go along with thoughts and emotions.

    Physical Relapse

    When a physical relapse occurs, the person succumbs to their drug addiction and engages in substance abuse again. When this happens, the person may think they won’t get caught. 

    The thought process is usually focused on drinking only one drink, never thinking about the risk of relapse or that one drink often leads to more.

    2. Recognize The Warning Signs

    In order to deal with an alcohol relapse, it’s important to understand the predictors and warning signs. As far as an emotional relapse goes, some of the signs may include:

    • isolation
    • bottling up emotions
    • focusing on other people’s problems instead of their own
    • poor self-care
    • ​skipping therapy meetings or being silent throughout the entire meeting

    With a mental relapse, you may begin to experience:

    • cravings
    • minimizing the consequences of past use
    • preparation for a relapse
    • searching for opportunities to relapse
    • lying or bargaining with yourself

    Hopefully, loved ones and others may have recognized the warning signs before physical relapse occurs. When physical relapse occurs, the person has started abusing alcohol again.

    3. Trust In Your Support System

    If you notice that you’ve developed cravings for drugs or alcohol, trust in your family members or your therapy groups. If you participate in Alcoholics Anonymous, don’t be scared to share your story. 

    Suffering in silence isn’t necessary when you can confide in your support system. This helps keep you honest in regards to your addiction and can help prevent a relapse.

    4. Practice Self-Care

    During the emotional relapse stage, one of the primary warning signs is poor self-care. Poor self-care can be demonstrated by negative eating habits, difficulty sleeping, and bad hygiene practices.

    To have a successful relapse prevention toolkit, it’s important to make healthy choices regarding our bodies and our eating habits. 

    5. Make Short-Term Goals

    To combat an alcohol relapse, you must always have goals. Most likely, your long-term goal is to be sober. Those who experience the beginnings of relapse may need to narrow their focus and start in small steps.

    For instance, to avoid a relapse and further alcoholism treatment at a facility, you can make short-term goals when you develop a craving. 

    Telling yourself you won’t drink for the next hour, day, week, or even month are all short-term goals that can allow you to manage the relapse more successfully. 

    Find Professional Help For Your Alcohol Addiction

    If you live with a substance use disorder, don’t hesitate to contact our helpline to learn about our treatment options. We provide support groups, detox services, and a variety of treatment programs to assist with your addiction recovery.

    In addition to this, our treatment centers offer both inpatient and outpatient programs to help you achieve long-term recovery.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Alcohol & Substance Misuse
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol Facts & Statistics
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol Dependence, Withdrawal, and and Relapse
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Relapse and Craving
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder
    US National Library of Medicine - Rates and Predictors of Relapse After Natural and Treatment Remission From Alcohol Use Disorders
    US National Library of Medicine - Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on August 17, 2022
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