10 Signs of Relapse

When you attend a treatment program, the time will eventually come for you to return home. For many residents, this transition brings a blend of excitement and anxiety. They ask themselves questions like, “What if I fall into old patterns?” and “What if I relapse?” Fortunately, the staff at your treatment center will have equipped you with several helpful pieces of information, including the warning signs of relapse.


What are the Symptoms of Relapse?

Relapse tends to come in three stages – emotional, mental and physical. This means that a person begins to think fondly about the times when they used drugs or alcohol, starts to rationalize using again and finally relapses. It can take days or weeks to move through these various stages, depending on the person, and they may not even realize what is going on. That’s why it’s so important to know the most common symptoms of relapse.

If you find yourself experiencing any of the below signs of relapse, we encourage you to contact your treatment provider as soon as possible.

1. Romanticizing drinking or drug use

2. Thinking back on perceived “good times” while ignoring the bad

3. Believing that you can drink or use again without getting addicted

4. Increasingly isolating yourself from friends and family

5. Spending time with people who are not good influences

6. Beginning to doubt sobriety in general

7. Abandoning any routines or structure that you set up

8. Avoiding meetings or your sober support network

9. Experiencing feelings of worthlessness

10. Badmouthing the concept of recovery


What is the Number One Cause of Relapses?

There are several factors that could cause a person to experience a setback in their sobriety. While we don’t have an exact understanding of the number one cause of relapse, the below reasons are among the most commonly cited. Here’s how you can overcome each relapse risk factor.



When you’re in active addiction, a majority of each day is taken up by drugs or alcohol. You spend hours sourcing, using and recovering from your substance of choice. This means that once you’re sober, you’ll have a lot more free time on your hands. Some individuals who leave these hours vacant find themselves idly thinking about using drugs or alcohol again, putting them at increased risk of relapse.

How to overcome boredom as a relapse trigger: Find activities that you enjoy, like exercising, playing sports, cooking nutritious meals or spending time with loved ones. By staying busy, you’ll find yourself feeling better every day.


Poor Self-Care

As you recover from addiction, you learn how to properly take care of yourself – perhaps for the first time. Your treatment center will help you to learn to eat healthfully, get some exercise and bounce back from a bad day. If that self-care starts to slip, you may begin to feel stressed, fatigued or anxious.

How to overcome poor self-care as a relapse trigger: This one is entirely preventative. Simply continue to put your health and your sobriety first. Set good boundaries with your employer, friends and family members to avoid burnout. Finally, you can schedule at least one night a week for total relaxation and self-care.


People, Places and Things

As we’ve discussed before, addiction doesn’t develop out of the blue. It is influenced by the company you keep, the places you frequent and your access to drugs or alcohol. Those in the early phases of recovery may have a difficult time coexisting in an environment with these potentially triggering elements. These can lead to many of the above signs of relapse.

How to overcome people, places and things as relapse triggers: There are several ways that you can thrive in sobriety, even in challenging circumstances. First, you can always bookend a challenging event with meetings – go to your local AA or NA chapter before and after that difficult family dinner. You should also feel free to bring your sponsor along to hold you accountable, and to stay in regular contact with others who support your sobriety. Finally, it is okay to decline invitations to these events if you’re not ready yet. By creating this stable foundation, you can ensure that your recovery will remain intact.



This factor is particularly salient during the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s a reason for the phrase that “an addict alone is in bad company.” Spending a lot of time by yourself results in loneliness, disconnection and rumination, which can create potential for relapse.

How to overcome isolation as a relapse trigger: Create a social schedule for yourself. Game nights, sightseeing adventures and dinner parties are all excellent ways to stay in touch with your friends and family. If you’re not yet immunized, you can focus on sharing outdoor activities in the beautiful spring weather. As always, we also recommend that you regularly attend 12-Step meetings whenever possible.


What to Do When You Feel Like Relapsing

At Cumberland Heights, we’ve helped countless Tennesseans to find recovery at our inpatient and outpatient facilities. As experts in the treatment of addiction, we have developed comprehensive relapse prevention programming that helps clients apply effective coping mechanisms to real-life situations.

If you’re worried about the risk of relapse, you may benefit from added support. Contact Cumberland Heights today for more information about our continued care programs.