Signs of Oncoming Relapse & When to Re-Enter Alcohol Rehab Treatment

People recovering from alcohol-based addictions well know the roller coaster ride the recovery process can be. The effects of chronic alcohol abuse leave lasting imprints on the brain’s physical makeup as well as on how the mind copes with daily life events.

Addiction’s classification as a chronic disease sheds light on the actual length and breadth of the alcohol rehab process. In effect, the likelihood of relapse occurring at some point in the alcohol rehab process runs considerably high.

Albeit so, a big part of recovery entails developing an awareness of self and developing the types of strategies that make continued abstinence possible. Being able to spot signs of oncoming relapse can go a long way towards maintaining continued progress in alcohol rehab recovery.

The Alcohol Rehab Process

alcohol relapse risk

Alcohol abuse alters the chemical makeup of the brain, which makes recovering addicts more sensitive to stress.

More often than not, people just entering alcohol rehab view recovery as an “either/or” dilemma in terms of maintaining sobriety versus giving in to the urge to drink. In actuality, alcohol rehab entails a process of growth and change, and for some people relapse becomes a part of the growth process.

According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, alcohol addiction is a chronic, relapse-prone disorder that can affect a person’s life long after he or she stops drinking. While not everyone will relapse in recovery, the urge to drink can persist long into the recovery process. Ultimately, as a person progresses through the alcohol rehab process, he or she develops the necessary tools for maintaining sobriety on an ongoing basis.

Stress & Addiction

Over time, alcohol creates chemical imbalances that eventually start to impair major systems throughout the brain. Alcohol addiction develops out of alcohol’s effects on the brain reward system.

The reward system regulates learning processes, compiling information from the brain’s cognitive and limbic centers to determine a person’s individual motivations, drives and priorities in life. Alcohol skews reward system functions, which accounts for how alcohol becomes the center of a person’s daily life.

Incidentally, the brain circuits involved in modulating stress levels overlap with the chemical processes that run the brain reward system, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism. In effect, these conditions not only make recovering alcoholics more sensitive to daily stressors, but tie the brain stress response directly into the mechanisms that trigger drinking urges.

Cues & Triggers

While a relapse event can happen within a manner a minutes, the addiction mindset starts to surface well before a person actually takes a drink. As alcohol addiction does affect different people in different ways, relapse cues and triggers vary from person to person; however, certain general undertones prevail:

  • Negativity or letting a negative attitude creep into your daily mood
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Feelings of anger or resentment
  • Dishonesty or getting into the habit of lying
  • Constant stress
  • Cutting back on support group attendance or skipping recovery-related appointments, such as therapy or group work
  • Overconfidence, which leads to risky behavior, such as taking pills or smoking marijuana

How to Return to AA After a Long Absence

When to Reenter Alcohol Treatment

The further along a person gets in alcohol rehab, the greater the role one’s support system plays in sustaining his or her recovery progress. Someone who’s approaching relapse has likely disengaged from the recovery process in general, leaving the door wide open for addiction-based thinking to take hold.

Once a relapse occurs, re-entering alcohol rehab treatment should be the first step taken. For people on the brink of relapse, getting a sponsor, entering therapy and/or frequenting support group meetings more often may be all that’s needed to ward off a drinking episode.

If you or someone you know struggles with overwhelming urges to drink and have questions about how to avoid relapse, or need help locating an alcohol rehab program, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak with one of our addictions counselors.

How the helpline works

For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the AlcoholicsAnonymous.com helpline is a private and convenient solution.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC), a paid advertiser on AlcoholicsAnonymous.com.

AAC representatives are standing by 24/7 to discuss your treatment options. These representatives work solely for AAC and will discuss whether an AAC facility may be an option for you. This helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither AlcoholicsAnonymous.com nor AAC receives any commission or other fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose.

For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit AmericanAddictionCenters.org. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.