It’s hard to accept, but relapse is part of the road to recovery for many addicts on the mend. Strange, right? We don’t often consider a slip-up to be a natural step in the recovery process, but the reality of chronic illness doesn’t lie. In fact, it persists. The relapse rate for alcoholism is an astounding 90%. And the rate for drug relapse hovers around 50%. It’s chronic because it recurs at a staggering rate, and it is deeply ingrained in the physiology and psyche of each addict. Whether you’re a recovering addict or a loved one, there are ways to counter the aftermath of a setback. Here’s how to deal with relapse in recovery.



A relapse occurs during the recovery stage of addiction and is typically the product of intense cravings and obsessive thoughts. A relapse can also be triggered by negative environmental stimuli like family, stress, and work. Feelings of shame and regret are common after a setback, leaving many addicts hopeless over their situation. It is thus important to understand how a relapse fits into the road to recovery.



Any kind of relapse will be a shock to the system—no matter what the vice. This is especially true if the relapse happens after a long period of abstinence. If you find yourself in the aftermath of a relapse, take a step back and think logically about this obstacle. Instead of wallowing in feelings of shame and guilt, think clearly about what went wrong. The best thing to do is revisit your recovery plan. Ask yourself if there are triggers that inhibit your progress. Experiment with different internal and external factors that could be affecting your behavior. A journal is a great way to jot down your thoughts. You can study your entries to pinpoint the possible obstacles in your way.



It’s all about the plan. And that plan needs commitment. When it comes to addiction and recovery, you need to have the right support in place to aid in your efforts—to believe in your dream. The strongest plans have multiple resources:

  • Get a sponsor.
  • Go to a support group.
  • Surround yourself with family and friends that encourage your journey to recovery.
  • Discover your triggers and eliminate them.
  • Go to therapy and work out the roots of your addiction.
  • Most importantly, be kind and compassionate with yourself.

Relapse can go one of two ways: backward or forward. And you get to decide. You can let it define you, or you can embrace the obstacle and come back stronger than before. That’s a lot of power. Use it.

what to do when relapse occurs


Perhaps you’re not a recovering addict, but a loved one of yours. In this case, you’ll need a plan too. It can be incredibly painful to watch a recovering addict relapse. You might feel frustrated and angry. You might even feel hopeless. But it’s important to remain calm and supportive. You want your loved one to succeed. And you want them to have the courage to move forward and pursue a better life. The most effective way to aid in that process is through unending support. That simply means believing in the dream of recovery. Find a way to lend a hand in their struggle. In the meantime, make sure to take care of your own mental health. By keeping a cool and level head, you’ll be able to give your recovering addict the love and encouragement they need when relapse occurs.

Our team will work with you to help you deal with relapse in recovery. Visit our treatment services page to learn about the therapies offered at United Recovery Project.