Alcohol Dependence: 5 Common Relapse Triggers And Tips For Dealing With Them
As with any dependency, it’s crucial to avoid things that can trigger the cravings.
Researched, written by Amber & The Team
Updated on January 9, 2024
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The frequency of relapse among alcoholics can vary widely, depending on individual circumstances, the level of support they have, their coping strategies, and how long they have been in recovery.
However, it’s important to recognize that relapse is relatively common in the recovery process and is often considered a part of the journey rather than a failure.
Studies have shown that approximately 40% to 60% of individuals with substance abuse disorders such as alcoholism will experience at least one relapse after an initial period of sobriety.
This rate parallels the relapse rates for other chronic diseases like hypertension or asthma.
Some individuals may experience a single relapse and then return to sobriety, while others may go through multiple cycles of relapse and recovery.
A relapse often indicates that adjustments need to be made in the treatment plan.
Continuous support, learning from relapse experience, and reinforcing coping strategies are essential in long-term recovery.
Identifying the common triggers can also help prevent relapse.
These triggers can vary widely among individuals, though some are more frequently reported than others.
Continue reading to learn more about them and how they can be managed or avoided.
Common Alcohol Relapse Triggers
Stressful situations or overwhelming emotions can prompt a desire to drink as a way of coping.
However, feeling stressed out has become commonplace in the modern lifestyle.
As such, it’s essential to equip yourself with practical knowledge and skills to help manage stress without resorting to alcohol use.
Some of the best ways to manage stress include:
- Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques;
- Following a healthy diet;
- Getting quality rest;
- Having time for rest and recreation;
- Connecting with loved ones and friends;
- Exercising regularly.
It’s vital to manage stress not only when it’s experienced but also when it’s anticipated.
For instance, knowing that you have a huge presentation at work next week would help you plan how to cope with the stress and anxiety that may come with it.
A lack of engaging activities or feelings of boredom can lead some individuals to abandon their alcohol addiction treatment altogether.
To prevent this, you need to participate in meaningful and fulfilling activities that replace the time and attention you previously dedicated to drinking.
Here are some strategies to manage and prevent boredom:
- Take up new hobbies or revisit old ones that you enjoyed – activities like painting, gardening, playing a musical instrument, or crafting can be absorbing and fulfilling;
- Use physical activities as a diversion when you have free time;
- Volunteer in community activities;
- Pursue learning opportunities related to career enhancement or personal interests.
Aside from these examples, you must also learn how to socialize in healthy ways.
Build relationships with people who support your sobriety and plan activities that don’t involve alcohol.
Being in settings where others are drinking, such as parties or bars, can trigger cravings.
On the other hand, some individuals may find it challenging to participate in celebrations or positive events without drinking, especially if alcohol was previously a part of such celebrations.
The good news is that you don’t have to turn down all invitations for this reason alone.
There are ways you can avoid alcoholic drinks in social settings, such as:
- Getting non-alcoholic drinks as soon as you arrive to prevent others from offering you any more beverages;
- Preparing to leave early and avoid situations that would make it difficult to refuse drinks;
- Focusing on socializing and connecting with other people;
- Visualizing a scenario before the event wherein you’re able to enjoy the party without any mishaps to boost your confidence and trust your willpower.
The thought of being swept away by the festive mood and energy of the crowd may seem daunting.
However, it’s essential to note that the successful prevention of relapse relies on your ability to continue regular activities with a strong resolve for sobriety.
So, if any party or gathering comes up and you really must go, view the event as an opportunity to strengthen your focus and determination toward achieving full recovery.
Cues Or Reminders
People develop alcohol dependence over time through routines and habits.
For instance, being around places with a steady supply of drinks or passing by bars on your way to work may have contributed to your drinking problem.
You may have also associated certain smells or sounds with the act of consuming alcohol, which can serve as cues or reminders that trigger this harmful behavior.
It’ll be helpful to identify people, places, things, or events that may cause a relapse so you can actively from your present lifestyle.
Negative Emotional States
Avoiding the use of alcohol to cope with emotions is a critical step in maintaining sobriety and overall mental health.
Here are some ways to cope with negative emotions while preventing relapse:
- Find new, healthy ways to deal with your emotions, like exercise, meditation, engaging in a hobby, or practicing relaxation techniques;
- Don’t hesitate to lean on your support system, whether it’s friends, family, or a support group;
- Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help you stay centered and calm, making it easier to handle emotions without resorting to old habits;
- If you’re finding it difficult to cope, consider seeking help from a therapist or counselor.
Aside from the above, complacency and withdrawal symptoms can also drive people to return to their former drinking habits.
For instance, some may feel that they can handle one drink or control their drinking after a period of treatment.
Meanwhile, the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can trigger the desire to drink.
For these reasons, it’s crucial to receive continuous treatment, support, and guidance to stay on track toward successful recovery.
Understanding and learning to manage your triggers is an important part of recovery for individuals struggling with alcoholism.
Therapy, support groups, and coping strategies can be beneficial in dealing with these triggers.
Meanwhile, your willpower and determination to achieve complete recovery will help you stay on course.