What causes relapse? Although there can be a wide variety of reasons that a person picks up a drink or drug after a period of sobriety, there are certain things that increase the probability that relapse may happen.

Missing or Shaky Support System

Recovery from addiction requires that you create a support system of other people in recovery who truly understand what you’re going through. For most addicts and alcoholics, sooner or later there is a day or time when sobriety is challenged in some way, and it’s important to know whom to turn to during these times.

Regularly attending AA or NA meetings is a good way to meet other people who are walking a path similar to your own. Some people also find support through online addiction recovery communities or through counseling. If you don’t let yourself build a support system, you are vulnerable to picking up a drink or drug when you feel tempted.

Hanging Around the Same People and Places

During the years that you drank or drugged, you probably hung around with certain people or in certain places. Once you are sober, you need to let those people and places go. If you don’t change the environment or your circle of friends, there is a good chance you will not only be tempted, but you may also even be encouraged to go back to your old ways.

Recovering from addiction means starting a new life, and this most likely includes breaking old ties. You can build new friendships, new routines and make healthier choices. Hanging on to the old ones is asking for trouble.

Lack of Knowledge About Triggers

Are you aware of the things that trigger the urge to pick up a drink or a drug? For some people, simple things such as the smell of cigarette smoke can trigger the urge to use. For others, it could be seeing people drinking on TV or in a movie or walking past liquor stores or large displays of alcohol in convenience stores. Triggers could also be volatile or negative emotions such as anger, sadness or stress.

If you want to stay sober, you have to be aware of the people, places or things that could set off a craving. Pay attention to the things that make you want to pick up and share these feelings with a sober friend or write them in a journal. You have to learn new coping skills for dealing with stress and new ways to react to your triggers. Learn to get in touch with your feelings and find new ways to process negative emotions.

Having an Undiagnosed Mental Health Problem

Some people use alcohol or drugs because they are trying to self-medicate mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. If untreated, the overpowering emotions experienced by people who have these conditions can easily lead to a relapse. If you have not been diagnosed with a mental health problem but are feeling mentally uncomfortable a lot of the time, let your doctor know. Don’t try to ignore your symptoms or hope they will go away.

If you have already been diagnosed with a mental health condition, it’s important to work closely with your doctor. Let him or her know if current treatments don’t seem to be working, and be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. If you don’t take medications exactly as prescribed, you may be setting yourself up for a relapse.

If you want to avoid having a relapse, your sobriety has to continue to be a top priority in your life, and you have to remain keenly aware of the things that might set off cravings. Although there are many reasons people relapse, understanding the disease of addiction and having the willingness to do what you need to do in order to stay sober can help anyone be successful in recovery.


Choose a better life. Choose recovery.