Alcohol addiction is incredibly destructive, and often completing a comprehensive rehabilitation programme is vital to recovering from alcohol abuse. However, there is not a miracle cure for addiction, and there are a number of common alcohol relapse triggers that people in recovery face.

Whilst rehabilitation gives you the tools, tips and therapy to overcome an alcohol addiction, there may still be triggers that can cause what is known as an alcohol relapse. During therapy, you will most likely have identified your personal alcohol relapse triggers. When you can identify these, you can easily avoid them or try to find pathways to stop struggling with the trigger.


What Are Common Alcohol Relapse Triggers?

Relapse triggers vary from person to person. Alcohol addiction is complex, and therefore, relapse triggers for alcoholics may be very difficult to understand. Self-awareness and self-knowledge are key to being able to remain sober and maintain addiction recovery. Personal triggers may be a specific emotion that evokes a thought pattern, or it may be something that someone has said to you that has made you feel anxious or upset. Relapses are commonly caused by a stressful life situation that you associate with the past.

The environment may generate poor thoughts and perhaps you feel disassociated with yourself. However, it may not always be easy to avoid triggers, you are arming yourself well when you know exactly what it is that makes you tempted to relapse on alcohol.

To break it down further, here is a list of the most common relapse triggers that we find on the journey to sobriety:

  • Loneliness
  • Challenging emotions from work/family life
  • Stress
  • Feeling ‘cured’ after rehabilitation
  • Untreated mental health problems such as anxiety or depression
  • Social isolation
  • New relationships – romantic or platonic
  • New jobs, promotions, work-life


Common Relapse Triggers for People in Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery can be a rocky road, and your team of therapists and counsellors will not judge you for these bumps along the way which is why you are provided with relapse prevention planning during your time in alcohol rehab. It is key that you reach out to someone when you feel that these emotional triggers are creating potential problems in your life.

By utilising the relapse prevention tips you have learned, you can make educated and informed decisions on your behaviours. Some of the most common types of common alcohol relapse triggers for people in recovery are:

Emotional triggers

New or ending relationships may trigger an emotional response. The breakdown of relationships can cause a person to be tempted to replace to cope with emotions, making this a leading cause of alcohol relapse. Emotional triggers could also include a loved one’s death, an illness, or even thinking too much of the past and dwelling on past events. That is why it is important to only ever look forwards when facing your addiction recovery journey.

Environmental triggers

The space in which you live and exist and even work, may play a huge part in maintaining sobriety. Toxic people, or seeing old people who you associate with your old life may trigger you. A poor work environment with high stress could also be a trigger. Removing yourself from environments where you see people drinking could also be beneficial to avoid relapse.


Craving for alcohol may continue for weeks and months after rehabilitation. However, it should not be as intense as it once was, and you will learn to manage any alcohol withdrawal or cravings during your alcohol rehab programme. The craving for the taste and feeling of alcohol can make you feel as if you are ‘in need’ of alcohol.


During the alcohol withdrawal phase – which can take weeks – you may feel that you are too weak to stop consuming alcohol. This is what can make withdrawal and alcohol detox a difficult process. However, with an inpatient programme, there are no temptations around and you have the necessary support. Alcohol detox should always be undertaken in a professional medical environment.


Stress is a huge cause of alcohol addiction relapse because reaching for alcohol was once an escape from this stress in your life. However, tackling stress head-on and finding other solutions can help you from becoming tempted to drink again.


Coping Strategies to Prevent Alcohol Relapse

As we have briefly touched on, preventative measures are a vital component of coping with relapse. These mechanisms can be your best friend in times of need and can act as a buffer for your mental health. It is known that self-care and self-awareness are very important to remain sober, but here are some ways that you can also take better care of yourself.

Healthy coping skills:

  • Journaling – writing your worries, to-do lists and thoughts on paper can help you deal with your feelings.
  • Stress-reducing activities – these include yoga, meditation, sports, relaxation techniques, hobbies and anything that creates a sense of calm in the mind.
  • Self-care – this may be eating well, trying to maintain 6-7 hours of sleep per night, socialising with good people, maintaining good personal hygiene and laughing can all contribute to a healthier body and mind.
  • Aftercare sessions – you should always follow through with your relapse prevention plan and continue with aftercare sessions once your treatment is completed. Take time to check in with yourself and see what areas you may need to work with yourself on in order to feel better. This may be a simple chat with your therapist, or continuing certain therapies until you feel stronger.


Importance of Support During Addiction Recovery

Support from your therapist team is vital, alongside friends and family. Speak with them openly about your goals and what you need from them in terms of support. This may be a simple chat and a coffee, helping them remove temptations, or even helping you to socialise and gain confidence once again.

If you do not have any friends or family that are there physically to support you, then you can reach out to specific groups, whether that is online or in person. You can join specific groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or clubs that can assist you with your specific hobbies. Meeting new people and finding a stable support group doesn’t have to be difficult.

You can cultivate meaningful bonds and relationships as part of a wider support network through your rehabilitation team or GP. Alcohol relapse is unfortunately common, and this does not mean you have failed. Alcoholism relapse triggers are often the driving force behind people re-entering rehab, and it is important to continue your recovery journey even if you experience relapse.

That is why it is important to learn how to deal with addiction triggers and identify them early to create the best possible outcome for your mental and physical health. For more information, please call us today on 01475 303998 and maintain the step towards sobriety.

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John Gillen - Author - Last updated: June 11, 2024

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. His passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases. The journey continues. In recent times, John has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with NAD+ scientists and the very best of the medical professionals in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Hospitals own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists. Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with NAD+ Therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.