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relapse prevention

Is Relapse a Sign of Failure?

Relapse in addiction recovery is more common than people think. Approximately half of all individuals who attempt sobriety will return to use drugs or alcohol at some point. This does not mean they stay addicted for long, perhaps just that one slip. It may be the one slip that sends them back to rehab but it can derail an otherwise awesome recovery. Addiction recovery is not full of sunshine and flowers. It is a daily, minute by minute, hour by hour, lifestyle change. Changing behaviors takes time so don’t beat yourself up if you or a loved one slip up. It is not a sign of failure; it is a cold, hard reality of the challenges recovery brings.

Causes of Relapse

People with addiction who return to drugs nearly always feel triggered by something or some place. The triggers are a byproduct of the brain’s desire to feel good and the reward center being stimulated. It doesn’t help to stop using drugs or drinking because if the environment or people don’t change, it will be that much harder to stay sober. The brain literally is altered through the use of drugs which impact memory centers in the brain and reward center. Triggers are hardwired as part of the collateral damage suffered by the brain after addiction.

The Dangers

Underlying issues must be addressed in rehab in order to start healing. Anxiety and depression are common co-occurring substance use disorders. During initial treatment, people with addiction learn to recognize triggers and focus on releasing the painful trauma of the past. Understanding the risks and dangers of mental illness or other disorders can help provide treatment and relapse guards against triggers in the environment.


Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Every person is unique in how they experience treatment and recovery. One person can hear a story and receive an entirely different message than the person next to them. The key to healing is realizing that relapse is possible but it is not a sign of failure. It is not a misfortune heaped on that person’s head for something they did or did not do right. Triggers and cravings happen to people throughout recovery, whether new or years into the journey. Life is full of ups and downs which can trigger a desire to go back to old habits, such as addictive behaviors. True healing comes from learning how to cope when triggers and cravings are set off and when to seek support from others. The journey of recovery is not meant to be done alone. Make sure to have a strong support network, attend meetings, and do whatever it takes to find a net that provides a safe (non-judgmental) space to fall if it happens and pick you back up when needed.

The beauty of recovery is getting to try it all again tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day. If you are ready to let go of yesterday and start a new day, call the Serenity Recovery Center. We will help you get started on the best decision you will ever make for yourself: to stop living the lie of addiction and live a new story. We are available 24/7 at our toll-free number: 844-339-6964. Call now.