For a heartbreaking number of people, addiction is a lifelong struggle. Those who have found recovery often dedicate much of their own lives helping others to find recovery and reap the many rewards it brings. Something you may hear other recovering addicts say is that recovery is a journey, not a destination. It is a journey that is sometimes smooth sailing, and sometimes a twisty, turny and bumpy road. Along the journey, some will begin using again. This is known as a relapse. While it isn’t part of everyone’s story, it’s extremely common. One thing that’s important to understand about relapse is that it isn’t a failure. It doesn’t mean that treatment “didn’t work” or that recovery isn’t going to happen for you or your loved one. It’s just sometimes part of the journey. Some people will relapse many times before finally sustaining lifelong recovery.

With that said, relapse is serious. It’s serious because any time you use can be your last time. An all too common tragedy among the recovery community is when a beloved member relapses and doesn’t come back. So, preventing relapse is important. And, it’s possible.

What Causes Relapse?

There are a number of factors that can contribute to a relapse. Sometimes, a person who goes into treatment to satisfy legal obligations or to please a family member simply isn’t “ready.”

Perhaps they haven’t experienced a low enough “bottom” or experienced enough consequences. This is common, especially among young people. They often feel the need to go out and do more “research” before coming to the conclusion that their lifestyle isn’t working for them and they need help.

They Think They Can Do It On Their Own

This is another common cause of relapse. Some people don’t believe that they need help from treatment, meetings or support from other recovering addicts. They are convinced that “they’ve got this” and they can do it on their own. They may succeed for a little while, but when life’s challenges start to stack up, or boredom or loneliness sets in, they lack the tools and support to stay clean and sober.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Sadly, many recovering addicts don’t get the treatment or support they need for co-occurring disorders. They may have a strong desire for recovery, and work hard on their program, but when their other needs aren’t addressed, relapse is often the result.

Having a co-occurring disorder means that you have other issues or conditions along with your addiction. Some common examples include:

  • Trauma and PTSD
  • Clinical depression
  • Anxiety or panic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders

Often, people go to treatment for their addiction, but they also need support for other disorders. This may mean additional education, counseling, therapies and in some cases medication. When these issues go unaddressed, people often resort to using to help them cope with the symptoms.

Of course, using drugs and alcohol will ultimately only make the conditions worse, but it frequently brings relief in the short term.

Hanging Out With People Who Use/At Places Where People Use

People, places and things can be problematic. Sometimes, newly recovering addicts are reluctant to let go of their using buddies, or want to continue being around the lifestyle or locations that are often associated with using. This nearly always leads to relapse.

Major Changes, Grief And Other Challenges

Life on life’s terms isn’t always easy. Sometimes, people relapse when difficulties occur in their lives. Some common examples include: Breaking up with a partner, losing a job, moving, a traumatic event such as a car accident, turmoil in family relationships. Especially in early recovery, events like these can be overwhelming, and without adequate support and tools, can lead to relapse.

Medical Conditions, Procedures

For recovering addicts, the need for surgery, getting injured or other medical issues can mean taking medication, often narcotic medication. This is always a concern for recovering addicts. Many have relapsed because they began abusing painkillers.

These are some common reasons why people who get clean and sober relapse in recovery. Looking at the reasons above, you may wonder how it is that people stay clean and sober at all! After all, something is always going to happen, life will always have challenges and people may not always be there to help you when you need it. But, not everyone struggles with relapse, and even people who are considered “chronic relapsers” often eventually get clean and stay clean.

Relapse Prevention Tips


If you are new in recovery, the following are some helpful tips that can prevent relapse and help you along your recovery journey.

Relapse Prevention Group Activity Find new people, places and things

This is huge. Delete numbers from your phone, cut all ties with connections. Stay away from places you partied, get rid of all paraphernalia. If you have close friends or family members who use, it is important that you put boundaries in place to protect your recovery. You may have to avoid them for some time. This isn’t always easy, but it can save your life.

Practice good self-care

Eat regularly, get enough sleep. Exercise, even if it’s just a daily walk. Give yoga a try. People who run themselves ragged, don’t get enough to eat and don’t take time out to nurture themselves are at a high risk for relapse.

Develop a spiritual practice

If you are not religious, that’s okay. Religion and spirituality are two different things. Talk to other recovering addicts about this topic. Read about meditation, get out in nature. Explore your beliefs. Try prayer, even if you don’t know what you are praying to. The serenity prayer is surprisingly helpful!

Develop a support system

This is often what makes the difference. Get to know other recovering addicts. Get phone numbers. Get a sponsor. Find people with more time than you and seek their experience. Find people with less time than you and help them. Surround yourself with people who support you in your recovery lifestyle, and want to see you succeed. Distance yourself from people who don’t take your recovery seriously.

When you are feeling upset, overwhelmed or angry, or when something is going on in your life, ask for help. Ask for support. Let people take care of you. Talk about what’s going on with you. Your first instinct may be to keep to yourself, and to avoid letting people know what’s going on with you. That instinct leads to relapse.

If you struggle with depression, trauma, bipolar disorder or any other co-occurring disorder, it’s important that
you get the help and support you need

Look for treatment that addresses these issues. They are often called dual diagnosis recovery programs, or offer treatment for co-occurring disorders. Learn to advocate for yourself and your recovery. Seek the help of others who share your struggle and have experience staying clean and sober and coping with mental illness or other issues.

What To Do If You Relapse

First, let’s talk about what NOT to do. Don’t beat yourself up! This will not help. Do quit using, do call someone and do get back up and try again. Relapse is not a failure. Don’t let fear, guilt or shame keep you from returning to recovery. You deserve this!

Get Help For Addiction

If you are struggling with addiction, Broadway Treatment Center can help. Our award-winning program will help you overcome your addiction and give you the tools you need to succeed in your recovery. We offer cutting edge holistic treatments and a variety of programs to meet your needs. Call 714-443-8218 today for a confidential consultation.