What Happens if I Relapse?

The word ‘relapse’ has negative connotations to it, but the truth is that relapse is common in people who are recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction. Relapse does not mean failure, it does not mean that you should give up. The goal is to try again to pursue the sober life you want while identifying triggers so that you can prevent these episodes in the future.

Relapse is Not the End of the Road

If you or a loved one is recovering from addiction, it’s important that you understand what relapse really is. Relapse is when you return to your original state, which in this case means returning to drug use after a drug-free period. It’s a cardinal feature of addiction, and many individuals struggling with addiction will relapse at least once. While it’s extremely frustrating for the addict and their family, it’s important to pick up the pieces and start fresh.

Consider other examples in life. How many times have you fallen back into an old habit? How often do you see those around you try and try again to get things the way they want? The same is true with addiction. Many people don’t admit their dependency, go through rehab and come out with a new person. They still deal with cravings, re-adjusting to life and accepting past negative experiences.

Additionally, addiction is a disease that never really goes away. It’s something that people live with for the duration of their lives, and they must continue to be actively involved in their sobriety. With these factors in mind, it’s important that recovering addicts and their families understand that relapse may very well occur, and if it does, it’s not the end of the road.

Finding the strength to pick up the pieces and start over again is difficult for everyone involved, and we see this all of the time at The River Source. What we recommend to our families is that they are aware of the potential for relapse and how to handle the situation if it is to occur. When armed with this information ahead of time, you can make better decisions if you find your loved one relapsing.

Here’s what to do if you find yourself relapsing.

Seek Professional Help

There are many types of resources available, including 12-step programs, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. You can also meet with a therapist or counselor who is familiar with your aftercare plan. The sooner you get help for your relapse, the better chance you have of minimizing the length and severity of the behavior.

Re-Enter Treatment

At The River Source, we have a guarantee for our patients who stay in treatment for three months and relapse within the year. The only cost to the patient is transportation. By calling our treatment center, you can re-enroll in our 30-day treatment program. Getting this help immediately is key in treating the addiction, and it can help you get back on your aftercare plan. Always check with your treatment center to see what types of programs are available if you relapse.

Revisit Your Relapse Prevention Plan

Your aftercare plan will include a comprehensive plan for avoiding relapse. At The River Source, all patients leave with an aftercare plan that details what type of therapy and medication are required to increase the chances of sobriety. If you find yourself relapsing, revisit the plan and make sure that you’re following it exactly, including seeking therapy, taking medication and attending step meetings.

Identify Triggers

Relapse generally doesn’t come out of nowhere. Patients feel the cravings creep up, and they start becoming consumed by the drug again. It’s important to address these triggers early on to avoid relapse. However, some people don’t realize what their triggers are until they actually go through relapse.

For instance, some people believe they can hang out with old friends again or have drugs or alcohol in their presence without feeling tempted. For others, they may be faced with a life-changing event such as illness or death in the family, and this could push them into relapse.

Additionally, it’s important that you are familiar with your own limitations. If you feel that temptation is getting stronger, enlist the help of a friend or family member. Give them your credit cards, the keys to your car. You want to minimize the damage done if you do relapse.

Know the Signs

Knowing the signs of relapse is also important. Here are common signs that relapse may be on the horizon:

  • Hanging around old friends who abuse substances
  • Cutting yourself off from your support network
  • Keeping alcohol or drugs within reach
  • Thinking about abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Having troubles with relationships
  • Having a close friend, family member or spouse who abuses drugs
  • Being bored, having a lack of things to do, having no schedule
  • Refusing to deal with your problems


If you or someone you love may be relapsing, don’t give up hope. Contact The River Source at 866-294-9331 to learn more about your options.

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