Cirque Lodge > Addiction > Understanding Alcohol Addiction > Relapsing into Alcohol Addiction

Relapsing into Alcohol Addiction

The World Health Organization classifies addiction as a chronic illness. There is no permanent cure for alcohol use disorder (AUD), and for some people, relapse is a natural part of recovery.

However, you can take steps to prevent relapse. Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that individualized alcohol addiction treatment that deals with the underlying causes of your addiction offers the best chance of avoiding relapse. Effective treatment programs like the world-renowned 12-step method are a vehicle for long-lasting change.

After you have left a rehabilitation center, several factors can trigger or contribute towards a relapse. Specific cues in your environment, unhealthy relationships, poor self-care, and the stresses of daily life can cause you to return to drinking.

Understanding what these factors are and taking steps to avoid them helps maintain long-term sobriety. Attending regular group meetings and other networks

that offer guidance and support through the rest of your journey also help your recovery. At Cirque Lodge, we offer a combination of different therapies aimed at promoting long-lasting change. We help you identify triggers in your environment and develop skills to avoid or cope with them. We identify underlying mental illness or co-occurring disorders and treat them alongside your alcoholism. The 12-step method is the foundation of our entire program.

Our private and exclusive facilities offer the perfect environment for personal growth and spiritual development. We offer the highest quality of care and expert medical help at all times of the day.

Importantly, our support continues once you have left our center. Our continuing care program provides you with an individualized aftercare plan to help you maintain sobriety in the years ahead. We connect you with local and online meeting groups to offer constant support in the rest of your recovery journey.

Addiction As a Chronic Illness

Addiction As a Chronic Illness

Addiction is a chronic illness. This means the possibility of relapse can be a natural part of recovery. But relapse is not a sign of failure – they only have to be temporary.

Relapse is also not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of. Alcohol use disorder causes changes in the brain that cause you to compulsively seek or use a substance even when it has harmful consequences. These changes can be long-lasting and make you experience urges to drink alcohol even after years of sobriety.

It may help to compare addiction to other chronic illnesses like diabetes and asthma. Diabetes treatment can lead to long periods of good health, but symptoms may reappear at times. In these instances, you can return to treatment and recover again. If you have had a lot of diabetes complications, you will know the warning signs. The same applies to alcohol.

Why Does Relapse Happen?

Why Does Relapse Happen?

Everyone’s journey through addiction and recovery is different.

We come from different environments, have different genes, and have lived through different life events, so the causes of a relapse depend on your unique circumstances.

However, several factors make relapse more likely. These include environmental triggers, missing support group meetings, stressful situations, and interpersonal problems. Recognizing these factors and making changes before relapse occurs can help you maintain sobriety.

Triggers in Your Environment

When you develop an addiction to alcohol, your brain connects certain cues in your environment with drinking. These cues tend to be things you associate with alcohol or the way you use it. They may include:

  • Seeing and smelling alcohol
  • Meeting people you used to drink with
  • Going to places you used to frequent

When you see these cues, it can trigger a compulsion to drink. This may still happen many years after you have stopped drinking. Learning how to avoid these triggers or developing coping strategies to deal with them is an integral part of rehabilitation.


Self-care is a vital part of recovery from addiction. Poor self-care can lead to low mood, stress, anxiety, poor mental health, and low self-esteem. These feelings and states of mind may cause you to use alcohol to escape, resulting in a relapse.

Lifelong recovery requires proper self-care, which involves eating well, exercising, meditating, and following a healthy daily routine. Self-care helps you maintain high self-esteem and general well-being, so you do not turn back to alcohol.

Forgetting Your Addiction Experience

When you first become sober, you may want to forget about your experience of addiction. Thinking about alcoholism may come with unpleasant and painful memories that you want to leave behind you.

In the same way that life is not always easy, neither is recovery. You will face your challenges, and you will have to cope with them while maintaining your sobriety.

Lifelong recovery requires a constant awareness of your addiction experience. It requires taking care to avoid situations that may trigger your alcohol use. It involves building long-term support networks to help you through difficult times and continue the healing process.

Isolation and Lack of Routine

If you have a drinking problem, you can devote most of your time to acquiring alcohol, consuming alcohol, and recovering from heavy drinking. When you first become sober, you may find you have a lot of free time.

An essential part of successfully rejoining society is developing structured routines to fill your time. Feeling bored or isolated can lead to negative thinking patterns, which may cause you to turn back to alcohol.

Your daily routines could include healthy behaviors such as exercising, cooking healthy meals, spending time with family members, or trying new hobbies. Regular online or local support group meetings like 12-step peer support should be a part of your weekly routine.

Relapse Prevention and 12-Step Groups

Relapse Prevention and 12-Step Groups

The 12-steps is an addiction recovery program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous almost 100 years ago. It is one of the most well-known and trusted treatments for substance use disorder and substance abuse.

The 12-steps are a set of principles that offer guidance for overcoming addiction and maintaining abstinence. They focus on spiritual development and the healing power of helping one another.

You explore the 12-steps through support group meetings. Group meetings allow you to learn from each other, to feel accepted, and to benefit from the comfort of shared experience. You will find someone to guide you through the steps (a sponsor), and later you will guide others.

You are encouraged to continue to attend these meetings after you leave a rehabilitation center and even after years of abstinence. Attending regular meetings helps you maintain healthy habits and your commitment to staying sober. It allows you to continue to heal while helping others to do the same.

Individuals in long-term recovery report that community support and 12-step organizations are among the most important factors in helping them maintain abstinence.

You can attend free 12-steps meetings online and in-person – you will be a member of a community of over two million people.

Treatment for Alcohol Relapse

Treatment for alcohol relapse varies depending on the severity of the relapse. If a relapse is minor, it may require attending a few therapy sessions at an outpatient clinic or extra support group meetings.

If a relapse involves a more sustained return to drinking, it can be necessary to go back to residential rehabilitation. However, this is not going back to square one. When you return to rehab, you can build on the skills you previously developed and learn from the causes of your relapse. You can grow even more as a person and take steps to help prevent another relapse.

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