How to Avoid 7 Common Relapse Triggers

How to Avoid 7 Common Relapse Triggers

Relapse is one of the most common factors in the recovery journey. Since every case is different, it’s important to remember that relapse can happen to anyone and it only means that you’re still learning. The emotional and psychological tug of war that relapse brings can initiate feelings of hopelessness after the hard work is done. Relapse commonly presents triggers that send the brain back into the established patterns of addiction

Relapse triggers can come in many forms. Something to keep in mind is that relapse comes in stages and it’s crucial to pinpoint where you are to make a change. For example, the waves of wanting to escape boredom can manifest as a relapse trigger. Hanging out with the people you used to can spark addiction triggers. Keeping a plan in mind is one of the tools you can use to continue your healing.

What Are The 7 Common Relapse Triggers?

Relapse is best described as returned use to an addictive substance or behavior after going through the process of recovery. Relapse is when a person makes a conscious decision to use while a freelapse is when they unknowingly take an addictive substance. Usually, the person is struggling to prioritize their recovery after treatment.


Boredom is a key factor in determining how successful a person in recovery handles their new coping skills. In the absence of structure, you might have difficulty filling in the time that would’ve been used for substances or compulsive behaviors. It’s important to find a hobby or seek education to keep these addiction triggers from haunting you. Boredom can increase the dream factor of reminiscing of using or experiences to escape from the struggles of life. Always reach out to your support system if you find yourself battling these urges.

Times of Celebration or Professional Success

Surprisingly, celebrations and professional success can serve as a double-edged sword when it comes to relapse triggers. Parties and other celebrations typically create an environment for alcohol and other substances. A key technique would be to have a trusted friend accompany you to provide support on this journey. These moments should be appreciated and don’t have to be an obstacle through responsible action.


Isolation can breed relapse triggers by preventing you from seeing your thoughts objectively. There’s a storm brewing inside your head, with feelings of emptiness, guilt, shame, and hunger. Isolation is one of those addiction triggers that prevent you from creating genuine connections to others. Being present in the moment and seeking relationships outside of use can be beneficial for your development.

Stress/Relationship Difficulties

The challenge of reentering the world after completing treatment can be difficult for some. Stress is a dominating factor in relapse and how the person relies on old behaviors to cope. The end of a difficult day can produce some of these dormant feelings but it’s important to be mindful of how you act. It’s normal to feel urges to escape but it’s noted that relapse occurs in stages that end in the physical. 

The conflict within relationships can serve a buffet of various emotions, promoting anxiety by the uncertainty of life. Relationships (romantic or otherwise) within recovery pose unique obstacles, so it’s significant to preserve compassion for yourself as you adapt. Reaching out to a sponsor or loved one can help process your feelings to seek a better understanding of how to navigate these issues.

Untreated or Undiagnosed Mental Illness

There’s an overwhelming majority of people struggling with substance use and mental health disorders. Even after treatment for substance use, it’s important to focus on the mental components of recovery such as counseling and self-care. Recovery is a lifelong practice in order to alleviate cravings and temptations. People often self-medicate for their mental health disorders, which can increase the possibility of relapse.


If you find yourself in the same non-sober environments and spending time with people who use easily sets up the course for relapse. For example, a fully stocked minibar shouldn’t be in the presence of someone struggling with addiction. It’s important for your support system to ensure that your environment is suited for recovery by eliminating relapse triggers. Revisiting these addiction triggers reintroduces the same negative feelings that break down your resolve.

Times When You Need to H.A.L.T.

HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) works as a diagnostic to decide how you feel in order to prevent relapse. Any of these feelings can brew addiction triggers and it’s crucial to be mindful of your emotional/physical state. Hunger is a potential addiction trigger, so it would help to find a trusted person to eat with. Anger is a common emotion we all experience. To manage anger, it’s important to see what triggers it and what you can control. 

Loneliness can prey on you in the most intimate moments, those moments of silence and your thoughts. Remember to reach out to someone if you feel overwhelmed. Tiredness can have draining effects on the mind and body. By assuring your meeting your physical and mental needs through exercise and self-care, you will have a better chance of functioning.

How Can You Avoid Them and Prevent Relapse? 

It’s important to remember that relapse is not a sudden incident that falls from the sky. Generally, the more of these factors begin to pile up, the chance of relapse increases. Multiple studies have recognized that about 50% of relapses happen within the first 12 weeks after intensive treatment. Taking course over a few days to months, a relapse will develop in three stages:

What Is the Emotional Relapse Stage?

This would be considered the first phase of relapse. You might be experiencing different emotions at once after recovery and have difficulty coping with them. Isolating and suppressing emotions are some of the common ways people will cope. The subconscious desire to escape serves as a relapse trigger by laying a foundation. You might not show up to meetings and tend to focus on the problems of others. The longing to use again creeps in the shadows of your mind. Recognizing denial through self-care would be a productive way to manage these feelings.

How Do I Know If I’m in the Mental Relapse Stage?

The mental stage of relapse is best described as the awareness of conflict revolving around sobriety. Maintaining sobriety is a fight of endurance and skill. You might be grappling intense cravings and battling thoughts that could send you over the deep end. The danger of romanticism plays a role, as daydreaming of previous experiences fills you up. These relapse triggers can come in the form of remembering early days of use. You could begin to rationalize a lapse by minimizing the consequences of “just using this one time”. 

Am I In the Physical Relapse Stage?

The physical relapse stage is noted as the final stage of relapse. Typically at this point, you might find yourself surrounded by addiction triggers and your resolve has lessened. If you struggle with addiction, you might find it challenging to pace yourself and end up diving deeper. This could start as one drink or starting to place small bets to give you that quick escape. The thoughts and cravings have been clouding your mind and it was only a matter of time.

What Happens If I Do Relapse?

Roughly 60% of people in recovery will relapse. It might feel as though the fight is over and there is nothing worth coming back to. This is far from the truth and it should be reiterated that this fight doesn’t have to be a lonesome one. Since there isn’t an overall relapse prevention program, seeking guidance from your support system and counselor would be the next step to see where you can improve. Updating your relapse prevention plan would serve as a great alternative to what you could be experiencing. By working on prevention, it would better suit you to seek alternatives that might function better to your needs.

What Is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

A relapse prevention plan is a set of guidelines to monitor your triggers and outline ways for you to maintain sobriety. A relapse prevention plan can be effective to prevent triggers that cause addiction on a specific basis. A recovering person should brainstorm scenarios and situations that could initiate relapse triggers. It is important to act out these circumstances to have a practical understanding of how to deal when it comes to acting. Relapse prevention is characterized by monitoring, medications, along with therapy/skill development.

What Treatment Options Are Available?

Rehabilitation is still an option if you feel as though your journey requires more attention. The highlight would have to be therapy and alternative treatment options tailor to this period. An outpatient treatment program might be geared for your needs if this was a singular incident, but it’s important to be honest with yourself. Maintaining a structured schedule and relationships with your support system will be an entry point. 

Ask for Help with Intrepid Detox

Over at Intrepid Detox, we understand that relapse is another obstacle to overcome in the fight against addiction. Self-compassion is necessary to deal with the effects of shame, guilt, and fear from relapse. Seeking treatment should be reliable and transparent to meet your needs. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, feel free to contact us to begin your recovery.

Our Blog

Addiction Treatment

The 4 C’s of Addiction

By Intrepid Recovery | March 28th, 2023

Understand the 4 Cs of addiction - compulsion, craving, consequences, and control. Learn how they contribute to addiction and how to address them to achieve lasting recovery. […]


Early Recovery , Helping Friends

Dating in Early Recovery

By Intrepid Recovery | March 12th, 2023

Is dating in early recovery a good idea? Learn about the potential risks and benefits, and get tips on how to navigate the dating scene while prioritizing your sobriety and well-being. […]


Early Recovery , Staying Sober

Setting Healthy Boundaries to Protect Your Recovery

By Intrepid Recovery | February 21st, 2023

Protecting your sobriety at all costs should be a top priority, but it can be tricky to do so when so much of life seems to revolve around drinking. […]