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One of the most challenging aspects of addiction is the recovery process. Navigating the motions of it means becoming well-acquainted with your habits. 

This period is when a person recovering from addiction becomes attuned with why they became dependent on a drug in the first place. Most importantly, recovery is the perfect time for a person to think about who they aspire to be. A support system can help a person in recovery feel like they’re on the right track. 

Why Do People Recovering from Addiction Relapse?

For someone overcoming a substance abuse problem, maintaining sobriety can be an everyday struggle. People recovering from any kind of addiction often experience at least one relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). 


Relapse is especially dangerous for individuals who have been in recovery for years. Those who have been sober for a while will lose their tolerance for drugs; this means that if they go back to taking the amount of drugs they were accustomed to during the height of their abuse, they may overdose. 


Remember, addiction is a chronic disease, so relapsing is always a possibility—no matter how long a person has abstained from drugs. When relapse occurs, it can be challenging for someone to get back on the road to recovery. Continue reading to learn more about the stages of relapse. 

Understanding the Stages of Relapse

Relapse is a process as opposed to a singular event of resuming drug usage. Here are the three stages of relapse:

1.Emotional Relapse

This type of relapse is usually the first stage in this process, and it occurs when someone who is recovering considers using illicit substances again. Unfortunately, the person in recovery begins to experience negative emotional responses, such as anger, mood swings, and anxiety. Furthermore, they may also experience erratic eating and sleeping habits, impacting their recovery journey. 

2.Mental Relapse

During this stage, a person recovering may be embattled in a tug-of-war with their other side who wants to return to using substances. Distorted thoughts about their life before recovery may arise, and they may romanticize their past lifestyle of drug usage. Sadly, it’s difficult for a person to overcome mental relapse without a strong support system. For many people, it’s only a matter of time before they begin using again. 

3.Physical Relapse

Once a person experiences a mental relapse, entering a state of physical relapse is unavoidable. This type of relapse occurs when a person in recovery breaks their sobriety; once they begin to use again, even if they think it will be just one time, the potential to become addicted again is prevalent.

Such a person should get help for their alcohol addiction or drug addiction.

What Factors Hinder the Recovery Process? 

Several triggers can cause someone to relapse, many of which are out of their control.

Pain management can be a compounding factor that increase the chances of relapse. See our article on managing pain as an addict for more on this topic.

A common trigger for relapse is mental illness. For many people, depression and substance abuse go hand in hand. Many people battling depression use drugs to combat it. Conversely, individuals who use drugs for recreational use may develop depression, propelling a vicious cycle of drug dependence. See our dual diagnosis page to understand more about the interplay between mental conditions and substance abuse.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Low energy
  • Hopelessness
  • Appetite fluctuation
  • Feeling worthless
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities that once brought joy

Additionally, stress is another significant trigger for relapse. Although stress is a part of everyday life for everyone, those prone to addiction due to genetics will turn to illicit substances to help them cope. People who depended on drugs in the past to mitigate stress are more likely to return to this behavior when future stressors arise. Isolation can also trigger a relapse, so those in recovery need a support system for their journey. 

Why Support Systems Are Crucial in the Recovery Process

1.Challenges Don’t Feel as Difficult

When a person who is in recovery faces a challenge, they may become overwhelmed and crave drugs. Having a group of supportive people to count on can help them handle intimidating situations in a healthy manner. A support system’s insight and assistance can make a complicated situation seem manageable. 

2.Friends Help Reduce Anxiety in Social Situations

Some people rely on drugs and alcohol to reduce social anxiety, but it can backfire and provoke their condition. For people with social anxiety, having a friend or family member with them in social settings helps curtail the stress of feeling inadequate. 

3.Family and Friends Keep those in Recovery in Check

Sometimes, a person who has recovered may feel invincible, as if they will never crave drugs again. They risk falling back into familiar patterns, increasing their chances of relapse. Turning to a support system can help a person in recovery address the underlying issues that pushed them to take illicit substances in the first place. Sometimes, loved ones tell us the words we don’t want to hear, but need to hear. 

4.Confidence and Self-Esteem Flourish

Everyone wants to be surrounded by people who make them feel their best. The presence and active role of a support system can boost a person’s confidence to the point where they feel like they can re-enter society and be independent. People in recovery who lack a support system have a more difficult time assimilating back to society after rehab than those who do have one. 

What to Look for in a Support System

While those recovering from substance abuse need a group of people who will root for them, it’s also vital for them to avoid enablers. The right people will be honest, but they shouldn’t be blunt to the point where the person recovering feels bad about themselves. If you’re looking for a support system to aid in your recovery process, we recommend following the advice below.


Don’t be afraid to reach out: Often, a person in recovery is fearful of talking to their loved ones about their cravings. Some people even feel embarrassed about potentially relapsing, increasing their chances of it. Don’t be afraid to confide in family members, friends, and coworkers about your recovery. Asking for help is a sign of strength and awareness. 


Outline your needs and expectations: Some people who are in the process of creating a support system don’t communicate their needs. Sadly, loved ones can overstep their boundaries and think they know what’s best for you. When you bring someone into your inner circle of confidants, it’s crucial to communicate your expectations with them so that they can respect them. 


If you don’t feel comfortable communicating your feelings, most recovery treatment centers offer family therapy to help families conquer this process together. Therapy sessions are facilitated in a safe space and promote transparent communication, allowing you to express your needs. 


Prioritize support meetings: For some people, recovery can feel isolating. However, most treatment centers provide those in recovery with group therapy sessions so that they can receive support while in rehab and beyond the program. 


During these sessions, a person in recovery can openly talk about the woes that come with recovery and their cravings. Being part of a non-judgmental circle of people going through similar experiences can help them continue to heal. 


If you’re a part of a group therapy program, don’t feel bad if you miss a week or two. You can always turn to these meetings because people will always be there to help you remain sober. 

Ardu Recovery Center Cares

At Ardu Recovery Center, we know the recovery process isn’t easy.  If you or a loved one need help to prevent relapse, you can turn to us for assistance. We specialize in a variety of detox methods, which include traditional medical approaches and modern holistic treatments. 

Our treatment center is located in Provo, Utah. We invite you to contact us with any questions you may have.