What to Do If a Relapse Occurs: A Guide to Maintaining Sobriety

by | Nov 15, 2023 | Relapse prevention

Relapse is a common and often frustrating part of the journey towards sobriety. Despite our best efforts, it can happen to anyone. Whether it’s due to external triggers or internal struggles, relapse can feel like a major setback. But it’s important to remember that it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It’s just a bump in the road, and with the right tools and mindset, you can get back on track. In this article, we’ll explore what to do if a relapse occurs, and how to maintain your sobriety in the face of temptation. So, if you’re struggling with staying sober or have experienced a relapse, this guide is for you. Let’s dive in and learn how to navigate this challenging but important aspect of recovery.

Drug addiction is a complex and difficult struggle that affects not only the individual but also their loved ones. Seeking help for drug addiction is an important step towards recovery, but the journey does not end after completing treatment at a rehabilitation center. Many people may experience a relapse, or a return to drug use after a period of abstinence.

Firstly, it is important to understand that relapse is a common occurrence in the recovery process, and it does not mean failure. It is a setback that can be overcome with the right approach and support. Understanding relapse and its triggers, warning signs, and stages can help individuals recognize when they are at risk and take appropriate steps to prevent further relapses.

Understanding Relapse

Relapse can happen for a variety of reasons, including stress, peer pressure, and emotional triggers. It is important to identify your personal triggers and have a plan in place to manage them. Common warning signs of relapse include cravings, increased tolerance, and neglecting self-care.

The stages of relapse are emotional, mental, and physical. In the emotional stage, individuals may feel anxious, irritable, or depressed. In the mental stage, they may start to justify or rationalize using drugs again. In the physical stage, they may actively seek out drugs or start using again.

What to Do When Relapse Occurs

If a relapse does occur, it is important not to give up hope. There are steps that can be taken to get back on track:

  • Reach out for support: Talk to a trusted friend or family member or seek professional help.
  • Revisit treatment: Consider going back to rehab or attending additional therapy sessions.
  • Identify triggers: Figure out what led to the relapse and create a plan to avoid those triggers in the future.
  • Practice self-care: Focus on healthy habits, such as exercise, proper nutrition, and getting enough rest.
  • Stay positive: Remember that relapse is a normal part of the recovery process and focus on progress made so far.

Types of Treatment Options

There are various treatment options available for individuals struggling with drug addiction:

  • Inpatient rehab: This involves staying at a facility for an extended period of time and receiving 24-hour care and support.
  • Outpatient rehab: This involves attending therapy sessions while still living at home and maintaining daily responsibilities.
  • Detox programs: These programs help individuals safely withdraw from drugs and manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • Ongoing support: Therapy sessions, support groups, and aftercare programs can provide continued support after completing treatment.

Maintaining Sobriety After Treatment

Staying sober after completing treatment can be challenging, but there are ways to prevent relapse in the long term:

  • Continue therapy: Therapy can help individuals address underlying issues that may contribute to drug use.
  • Join support groups: Connecting with others who have gone through similar experiences can provide valuable support and accountability.
  • Avoid triggers: Stay away from people, places, and situations that may trigger drug use.
  • Practice self-care: Prioritize self-care and engage in activities that promote physical and emotional well-being.
  • Set goals: Setting goals and working towards them can provide a sense of purpose and motivation for staying sober.

Understanding Relapse

Understanding Relapse:

Drug addiction is a complex and difficult struggle that can lead to relapse even after completing treatment at a rehabilitation center. It is important for individuals to understand the triggers, warning signs, and stages of relapse in order to maintain sobriety.


Triggers are events or situations that can cause a person to turn to drugs again. These can include stress, certain people or places, emotional distress, or even celebrations and parties. It is important for individuals to identify their personal triggers and develop coping mechanisms to avoid them.

Warning Signs:

Warning signs are changes in behavior or emotions that may indicate a potential relapse. These can include increased cravings, negative thoughts, isolation, and changes in sleep and eating patterns. Recognizing these warning signs early on can help prevent a relapse from occurring.

Stages of Relapse:

Relapse is often seen as a process, with three distinct stages: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. Emotional relapse involves bottling up emotions and not taking care of oneself, which can lead to mental relapse where the individual begins to romanticize their past drug use. This can then lead to physical relapse, where the individual actually uses drugs again. Understanding these stages can help individuals recognize and address any potential relapses.

Maintaining Sobriety After Treatment

After completing treatment at a rehabilitation center, it is important to have a plan in place for maintaining sobriety in the long term. Without a plan, it can be easy to fall back into old habits and succumb to a relapse.

Here are some tips for staying sober and preventing relapse:

  • Find a support system: Surround yourself with people who support your sobriety and can offer guidance and encouragement when needed. This could include family, friends, or a support group.
  • Practice self-care: Taking care of your physical and mental health is crucial for maintaining sobriety. This could include exercising regularly, eating well, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
  • Avoid triggers: Identify what triggers may lead to a relapse and try to avoid them as much as possible. This could include certain people, places, or situations.
  • Attend therapy or counseling: Continuing therapy or counseling sessions can help you address any underlying issues that may have contributed to your drug addiction.
  • Stay busy: Keep yourself occupied with hobbies, work, or other activities that keep your mind and body engaged. This can help prevent boredom and idle time, which can often lead to relapse.

Maintaining sobriety after treatment is an ongoing process, and it is important to constantly reassess and adapt your plan as needed. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself, as recovery takes time and effort. With the right support and tools, you can continue on the path towards a healthier, sober life.

Types of Treatment Options

When it comes to seeking help for drug addiction, there are various treatment options available. These options can be categorized into inpatient or outpatient rehab, detox programs, and ongoing support through therapy and support groups. Each of these treatment options has its own benefits and may be more suitable for different individuals based on their specific needs and circumstances.

Inpatient Rehab:

Inpatient rehab involves staying at a residential treatment facility for a set period of time, typically ranging from 28 days to several months. This type of treatment provides a structured and supportive environment for individuals to focus solely on their recovery without any outside distractions. It also allows for 24/7 access to medical and mental health professionals who can provide personalized care and support.

Outpatient Rehab:

Outpatient rehab involves attending treatment sessions at a facility but returning home at the end of each day. This option is more flexible and allows individuals to continue with their daily responsibilities while receiving treatment. Outpatient rehab may be a good choice for those with a strong support system at home and a lower level of addiction severity.

Detox Programs:

Detox programs are often the first step in treating drug addiction. They involve removing all traces of drugs from the body and managing withdrawal symptoms. This process can be dangerous and uncomfortable, which is why it is best done under medical supervision.

Ongoing Support Through Therapy and Support Groups:

After completing a rehab program, ongoing support through therapy and support groups is crucial for maintaining sobriety. Therapy can help individuals address underlying issues that may have contributed to their addiction, while support groups provide a sense of community and understanding.

What to Do When Relapse Occurs

Drug addiction is a challenging journey that often involves ups and downs. While seeking help and completing treatment at a rehabilitation center is an important step towards recovery, relapse can still occur. It’s important to remember that relapse is not a failure, but rather a setback that can be overcome. In this article, we will discuss the steps to take when a relapse occurs in order to get back on track and prevent further setbacks.

1. Recognize the Signs: The first step in preventing further relapses is to recognize the warning signs. These may include sudden cravings for drugs, negative thoughts and emotions, and isolation from support systems. By being aware of these signs, you can take action before a relapse occurs.

2. Reach Out for Support: It’s important to have a strong support system in place during recovery. When a relapse occurs, it’s crucial to reach out to loved ones, therapists, or support groups for help and guidance. They can offer emotional support and help you get back on track.

3. Identify Triggers: Triggers are situations, people, or environments that may lead to drug use. By identifying your triggers, you can develop strategies to avoid or cope with them in a healthy way. This may include finding new hobbies or activities to replace old habits.

4. Consider Therapy: Therapy can be a valuable tool in preventing further relapses. A therapist can help you work through any underlying issues or emotions that may contribute to drug use and provide coping mechanisms for dealing with them.

5. Practice Self-Care: Self-care is essential in maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse. This may include exercise, healthy eating, getting enough rest, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and peace of mind.

By following these steps and staying committed to your recovery, you can get back on track after a relapse and prevent further setbacks. Remember, recovery is a journey, and setbacks are a natural part of the process. With determination and support, you can overcome relapse and maintain your sobriety after completing drug rehab in Los Angeles.

Relapse is a common occurrence in the recovery process, but it does not mean failure. With the right approach and support, it can be overcome. Seeking help for drug addiction is an important step, and with ongoing support and determination, maintaining sobriety after completing drug rehab in Los Angeles is possible.

Brooke Gilbertsen

Brooke Gilbertsen

Dr. Brooke Gilbertsen is a licensed clinical psychologist who has been working in the field of mental health since 2011 and specifically co-occurring disorders since 2013. Brooke brings her knowledge, experience, and compassion to support clients and their loved ones on their journey toward recovery, health, and holistic healing. Brooke has experience working with a wide range of diagnoses from severe mental illness and personality disorders to depression and anxiety, and believes the underlying cause must be treated in order for freedom from addiction to occur. Brooke treats the whole person, considering mental health diagnoses, genetics, neuropsychology, the context of the family and environment, social relationships, trauma and loss, vulnerability, shame, and self-worth. Brooke applies a wide range of evidenced-based modalities, incorporating mindfulness, spirituality, and psychodynamic approaches to assist clients in the healing process. Brooke is passionate about helping her patients discover the best version of themselves, with a renewed sense of freedom, purpose, and meaning. The model is to build a life that you want to show up to, and don’t need a vacation from.

Brooke completed her B.A. in Psychology in 2008 from San Diego State University. She obtained her M.A. Degree in Clinical Psychology in 2013 from Argosy University, and received her Doctorate in Psychology in 2016 from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She is the author of The Impact of Mindfulness on the Quality of Life of Cancer Patients, published in 2017. Brooke has been the keynote speaker for lectures on addiction, and is passionate about helping others find their way as they take the courageous journey toward self-growth.