Common Relapse Triggers

Learn about the most common relapse triggers for alcoholics: withdrawal Symptoms, emotional distress, peer pressure, and more.

It is common for alcoholics to view sobriety as a panacea that will make everything in their life better. While overcoming an alcohol problem can improve overall quality of life, the stress of day-to-day living still exists. A newly sober person may fall victim to common relapse triggers and return to self-destructive behaviors. It is important to understand what the relapse triggers for alcoholics are and to develop strategies for coping with them.

Relapse Triggers for Alcoholics

Historically, doctors and loved ones have pinned the cause of relapses on character defects, immorality, selfishness, and lack of self-control. While an alcoholic may or may not have these traits in varying degrees, they represent only a small part of the cause of a relapse. Here are the most common relapse triggers for alcoholics.

  • Withdrawal Symptoms- A person going through alcohol withdrawal may experience anxiety, shakiness, tremor, headache, nausea, insomnia, irritability, fatigue, and nightmares. The symptoms may be so severe that the person consumes alcohol to stop them. A medically-supervised detox program can be immensely helpful in preventing this from happening during the early stages of detox.Although the majority of the withdrawal symptoms dissipate after a few days, it can take a period of months for the body to fully adapt to sobriety. Strong physiological cravings for alcohol may come and go as the body continues to adjust. Participating in AA meetings and consulting a medical professional can be helpful in dealing with this issue.
  • Emotional Distress – Often, people who develop a problem with alcohol use the substance as a coping mechanism. A newly sober person may relapse if he or she is suffering from emotional distress, especially if the person did not learn the coping skills needed to handle the demands of life. To prevent this from happening, it is important to work with a mental health professional who can teach you how to properly deal with your emotions. Call our free national helpline for a referral.
  • Peer Pressure – Addicts may find themselves in situations where friends or family members pressure them to have “just one drink,” which leads to a relapse. The experts say that we are hardwired to seek acceptance from the people we love and admire. This is why many counselors and therapists recommend alcoholics cut connections with people who have problems with drinking, and they should avoid socializing in places where alcohol is served.
  • Increased Monetary Resources – It is easier to resist temptation when you do not have the means to satisfy it. However, many sober individuals find their cravings are strongest when they have the monetary resources to purchase alcohol. One way to avoid this issue is to have someone you trust handle your finances for the first few years of your newfound sobriety. This will give you time to develop the strength and skills needed to handle temptation.
  • Testing Boundaries – Interestingly enough, a person may have a relapse because he or she wanted to test his or her self-control. A person may have a drink to see if he or she has the willpower to resist drinking more. People who suddenly find themselves on their own after being under the control of others are particularly at risk for this type of behavior because no one is around to hold them accountable for their actions. When thoughts like this occur, tap into your support system for assistance in working through the temptation.

Staying sober is a lifelong commitment. By understanding what the common relapse triggers are, you will be better prepared to maintain your sobriety and live the healthy life you want. For assistance in finding resources that can help you stay sober, call our confidential helpline.