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Top Reasons People Relapse

Top Reasons People Relapse

What is Relapse?

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), relapse is defined as the recurrence of behavioral or other substantive indicators of active disease after a period of remission. When someone decides to go through the steps to becoming sober, they are making a choice to stop all use of substances. Relapse occurs when they fall back into the same bad habits after being sober for a period of time. Therefore, returning to abusing substances.

Sobriety and the recovery process is a hard and long journey that needs to be worked on constantly. There are many triggers all around us that tempt us to return to bad habits. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you notice relapse begging to happen. Relapse is extremely common, but the important part is how you come back from the relapse. Seeking help immediately after relapse from professionals, like Harm Reduction Center in South Florida, is the first step to take.     

There are many factors that go into the reasoning why people relapse, and here are a few of them explained. 

Withdrawal Symptoms

One of the most common reasons for relapse is to avoid withdrawal and the symptoms it brings. This can happen within the first week or two while detoxing. Some may experience acute withdrawal symptoms months after the initial detox. The symptoms of withdrawal can be severe and very painful and strenuous on the body. 

These symptoms include:

  • Nausea/ vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness/ insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Intense cravings
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Due to these intense, and oftentimes unbearable symptoms, many people turn back to substance abuse to escape the pain they are feeling at that time. This is putting them right back where they started. Seeking medical help when detoxing is important to help manage the pain and symptoms in a safe and controlled manner.


Stress is a big factor as to why people begin using and abusing substances to help cope with the stressors of life. Staying sober can also be a big stressor that many people don’t know how to manage. This type of stress can make you vulnerable to relapse because in the past that is how you may have dealt with stress. Instead of going down that dark path, talk to someone or find a support group you can turn to for help through these tough times.   


Fear of the unknown is something many people struggle with. When someone decides to get help for substance abuse and begin their recovery journey, they are jumping headfirst into the unknown. This can be scary because in recovery, you are going from one extreme to another. It is a long and hard process that can look nearly impossible to succeed, which is a big fear that keeps people away from it. 

Once you have made the commitment, gone through the steps, and put in the work, the hardest part has yet to come. For many people, it is life after recovery that can be the scariest. Having to deal with the triggers that put you in this position in the first place can be terrifying. Like you dealt with fear and anxiety before recovery, it is easy to turn back to those substances to take the pain and fear away. This is when many people relapse. 

Loneliness and Boredom 

Recovery and life after having the misconception that it is boring and you are all alone. This can go hand in hand with the fear of not knowing how life will look now that you are sober. Many people going through recovery feel guilt and shame because of the choices they previously made. When choosing to get sober the friends you once had may drift, whether that was your decision or theirs. 

You may feel like you let your family down or that they may not understand, so you distance yourself from them. This can be extremely lonely which can ultimately lead someone into relapse. It is important to find a support system that understands you and can help when you feel at your lowest. It is also important to get out of the mindset that because you’re not drinking or using other substances you can’t have a good time with friends.  

People or Places that are a Trigger 

Jumping back into life after recovery can be difficult to manage. You are going to have to face people and places that once occupied your time in a negative way. These negative influences may try to bring you back down, causing you to relapse. Hanging out with certain people and specific places may be a trigger for you. These are the types of changes you will need to assess and fix to keep you on track. 

Family get-togethers or celebrations where alcohol is involved also may be a trigger. It is important to communicate these concerns and ease your way back into these situations. 

Unrealistic Expectations 

Like we briefly touched on above, coming out of recovery can be scary and you may not know how you will react to specific situations and triggers. It is important to take everything at your own speed and not set unrealistic expectations. Jumping right back into life, as if nothing happened, can potentially set you up for failure. Assuming you can get right back into the flow of things can cause you to relapse, because of these unrealistic expectations of yourself. 

It is also important that we don’t set unrealistic expectations for others. We have to set boundaries and what we are and aren’t comfortable with, but everyone makes mistakes. This is not only new for you but for your loved ones as well. Patience is key for everyone involved in your life. 

Self Pity

When we feel alone and isolated because of our actions it is inevitable that we begin to feel sorry for ourselves. It is ok to feel like this for a moment, but when we become obsessed with these emotions it can drag us back into a dark place. Depression begins to creep in because we tell ourselves we will never be good enough or how bad we have messed up our lives. This is self-pity and ultimately self-destruction. 

Allowing your mind to stay in this state is a recipe for disaster and can cause you to relapse. It is thoughts like this that begin justifying going back to the substances that got us here in the first place. 

How to Respond to Relapse 

Remember that you are not alone on this journey and that it is normal to have negative thoughts. Recovery is hard and a long journey, but there are so many people that want you to succeed. Find a safe place and people who can relate to your struggles to help steer you in the right direction, and keep you away from relapsing. 

If you are in the South Florida area and are ready to take the next step towards sobriety, contact Harm Reduction Center. They provide private healthcare facilities and highly individualized services to each client. They offer Integrated Medication-Assisted Treatment and all outpatient levels of care. At Harm, they know that recovery should look different for everyone, and they are there to stand by you as you walk this journey.