Alcohol Relapse – Prevention, Triggers, and Help

Physical detoxification from alcohol is completed within just a few days, but there is still a long way for alcoholics to go in their recovery process. Along the way, there can be a multitude of obstacles to overcome as recovering alcoholics return to their everyday lives. Environmental factors and unresolved emotional problems can provide constant urges and cravings to tackle. Thankfully, there is a lot that can be done to help.

Prevention is a Vital Step

A thorough alcoholism treatment program will engage in relapse prevention, as academics have proven that this component helps to minimize the threat of relapse. Crucially, it has also been determined that relapse in fact begins prior to the first slip of an alcoholic. Traditional alcoholism treatments like 12-step programs do not prepare the heaviest of addicts for defeating their cravings.

This link provides an in-depth analysis of the relapse prevention model outlined by academics Marlatt and Gordon (1985). Their model effectively outlines the two common outcomes from an alcoholic experiencing a high-pressure situation:

  • They possess an effective coping response, which leads to increased self-efficacy and decreased probability for a relapse.
  • An alcoholic with an ineffective coping response will have decreased self-efficacy and lapse with an initial use of alcohol. Ultimately, they regress by returning to their use of alcohol.

Identifying Possible Triggers

There are four common categories within which you can identify alcoholic relapse warning signs. First of all, negative emotional states can provide some of the strongest alcoholism relapse causes. Feelings like depression, anxiety, anger, and more can result from environmental events. A common occurrence would be loneliness.

Situations involving larger groups of people can prove to be a worrying catalyst. Family groups can be of particular concern, with alcoholics proving to be a source of frustration for sober family members. Interpersonal conflicts can lead to the development of intense emotional feelings, as described above.

The presence of negative social influences – old drinking buddies, in particular – causes many to relapse. Therefore, social influences have to be considered when it comes to relapse prevention alcohol. An alcoholic hanging out with old friends whom they used to drink with is absolutely a trigger.

Positive feelings can also be a concern, which might be surprising to learn. However, this makes sense when you consider that positive celebrations will often place an alcoholic within immediate proximity of alcohol. Whether at a wedding or a birthday, positive feelings can bring about a relapse.

How to Help

Complacency is a major concern among addiction professionals from throughout the US. The reason is that alcoholics can experience a false sense achievement in their recovery process. Having avoided drinking for many weeks and undergoing treatment, they feel equipped to possibly control their habit. Of course, the problem has always been that they cannot.

Another problem is that addicts who have been treated within a 12-step program are not dealing with their various stresses as they try to maintain their sobriety. The obvious concern is that their stresses will eventually cause extreme negative feelings that cause an alcohol relapse – now what?

Well, some advance preparation is required to avoid alcohol relapse. As for what to do, firstly you need to handle your feelings and problems on a daily basis. Addicts are not the type of people who can build up their issues and leave them until later.

In avoiding stresses, you need to focus on maintaining a healthy diet and optimal work-life balance. You cannot bury yourself in hours of work without taking a break to reduce stress. Think about whom you can talk to when you are concerned about your feelings. Knowing in advance will make it easier to call them.

Alcohol relapse medication is another possibility, but only for extreme cases. Currently on the market are medications such as acamprosate, naltrexone, and disulfiram – those are three of the most common.