The Freedom Center

Avoiding Triggers That Will Lead to an Alcohol Relapse

Triggers are social, environmental, or emotional circumstances that remind recovering addicts of their former alcohol use. These cues produce urges that could lead to relapse. Although triggers won’t force someone to use drugs or alcohol, they do increase the likelihood of using. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that 40 to 60 percent of individuals who’ve been previously treated for drug or alcohol addiction end up relapsing.

Long-term alcohol abuse produces a relationship in the brain that connects everyday routines and alcohol use activities. Individuals could experience uncontrollable alcohol cravings when exposed to particular triggers. The cravings are a reflex to internal or external triggers, and this response may even affect those who’ve have refrained from alcohol use for an extended period.

External Triggers

External triggers are objects, places, people, and activities that evoke cravings linked with alcohol use. Patients in recovery can be sheltered from the risks of external triggers by producing strategies to avoid triggers that prompt their prior alcohol use. Patients should also be able to fight their alcohol cravings when they’re in triggering circumstances.

A study by NIDA found that cocaine-related images subconsciously provoked the emotional cores of former user’s brains. These underlying motives and cues set off a prompt activation of the circuitry linked with alcohol cravings.

The analysis affirmed that subconscious cues are hazardous because they augment the patient’s desire to begin consuming alcohol without them being conscious of it. Researchers highlighted the importance of evading the things, places, and people that remind them of their prior lifestyle.


People who are closest to the alcoholic could be a cause of cravings that ultimately lead to relapse. It is unsafe for patients in recovery to be around friends and family who are consuming alcohol. 

Even peers who refrain from alcohol can be hazardous. Offering alcohol to a former addict could trigger emotions that urge an alcoholic to use again.

Examples of people who could create cravings include:

Loved ones might not recognize the effects of adverse behaviors toward patients in recovery. These behaviors can make the patient feel alienated and urge them to start consuming alcohol again.


High-risk places remind former alcohol abusers of the times they engaged in drinking to get drunk. Driving or walking through areas where alcoholics used to drink may spark a recollection related to alcohol use.

Some high-risk areas may include:

Individuals can find different ways to avoid high-risk areas, such as areas or bars where they previously would hang out and binge drink.


Those who are at risk of relapse should avoid stressful circumstances that could urge them to start consuming alcohol again.

While holidays are a time to celebrate for most, they usually become a struggle for patients in recovery. Holiday parties that include social drinking can be complicated. Friends and family often tempt recovering addicts to consume alcohol because they believe that one drink will not be detrimental. 

Some high-risk situations for alcoholics come in two categories: events and behavioral activities.

Events such as:

Behavioral activities, such as:

Patients in addiction treatment might contemplate skipping support group meetings or treatment sessions to spend time with friends and family. A rift in the cycle can leave times of isolation where patients might become inclined to consume alcohol again.

Internal Triggers

Internal triggers are a more significant challenge in managing than external triggers. They include thoughts, feelings, and emotions previously linked with alcohol abuse. 

When internal triggers occur, they could lead to problematic behaviors that hinder addiction recovery progress. Vulnerability to these cues may cause addicts to crave and use alcohol again.

Here are some examples of emotions that could serve as internal triggers.

Negative Feelings:

Normal Feelings:

Positive Feelings:

A person can identify the feelings that could trigger a relapse by questioning themselves:

Patients in recovery must be conscious of the internal triggers they struggle with most and have a method ready to seek support.

The Stages of Relapse

When patients in recovery submit to triggers, their brains produce rationalization to consume alcohol despite comprehending that remaining sober is their goal. This continuous conflict heightens their vulnerability to cravings, which could result in relapse.

Emotional Relapse

Previous alcohol users will be in denial throughout an emotional relapse, but they wont have intentions of using. They’ll feel ashamed of a past time they relapsed and have acquired negative behaviors to cope with their feelings. This state of mind is hazardous because it prompts harmful health practices that may lead to a full-blown relapse.

Signs of emotional relapse include:

During therapy for patients undergoing emotional relapse, they are urged to recognize their opposition and focus on self-care.

Mental Relapse

Mental relapse is the constant struggle between desiring to drink and knowing you should not drink. Individuals frequently disparage the risks of circumstances and end up relapsing by justifying its only a one-time thing. They’ll allow themselves to consume alcohol in a controlled manner, but the repetition of drinking will usually escalate until it’s a full-blown relapse.

Signs of a mental relapse:

Learning coping skills can help individuals in managing their urges to drink.

Physical Relapse

A physical relapse happens the moment the alcoholic starts to drink again after an extended period of sobriety. It is the conclusion of a mental relapse and an emotional relapse. 

Physical relapses are a challenging level of relapse to succeed. In a majority of cases, drinkers cave to consuming alcohol when opportunities arise and wrongly think it causes no harm.

Identifying Triggers

External triggers are more obvious to recognize and control than internal ones. Alcohol abuse treatment strives to help patients understand the initial warning signs of relapse and acquire healthy coping skills to prevent a possible relapse.

Managing External Triggers

Triggers that occur outside of the alcoholic are not inevitably beyond control. There are various reminders of alcohol use in a former drinker’s life, places, people, and objects.

Asking the precise questions and taking the right steps can enable patients in recovery to healthily transition back to their regular life without jeopardizing a relapse.

Recovering alcoholics can carry out particular exercises where they write out a list of the places, people, or objects that prompt them of their alcohol-consuming lifestyle. Listed below are some examples of the specific questions that asking about external triggers could help prevent relapse.

Eliminating alcohol triggers and cravings

Avoiding alcohol drinkers

Avoiding High-Risk Areas

Managing Internal Triggers

Recovering alcoholics will develop new thoughts, feelings, and reactions while consuming alcohol. These may include shutting out loved ones, denying problems, or justifying alcohol consumption. Healthier methods need to substitute those negative internal triggers to help patients succeed in their path to sobriety.

Listed below are some examples of questions recovering alcoholics can ask themselves to help them recognize their internal thoughts and feelings.

Patients in the early stages of recovery that can recognize and successfully respond to triggers will have the highest chances of long-term sobriety.

Tips for Preventing and Reducing Relapse

Listed below are some helpful tips for avoiding relapse:

To relapse upon completing addiction treatment doesn’t imply that treatment failed. However, it does mean that a return to some addiction treatment is required. If a relapse happens, measures should be taken to decrease the severity and continuation of the relapse. 

Frequently, a different treatment form or method would be recommended to keep the relapse from advancing. Realizing that stress is a frequent relapse trigger, and understanding how to manage possible stressors and maintaining controlled moods, may help.

The Environmental Aspect of Recovery

Individuals surrounding environments and support systems play crucial roles in the recovery process and help addicts to avoid relapse. Family therapy and treatment sessions can help loved ones recognize the disease of alcohol addiction better and allow them to learn and identify relapse triggers and how to prevent them. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that roughly 8.9 million American adults are experiencing both a mental health and addiction disorder of some sort.

Communication techniques and family dynamics will improve through the family therapy process. Family support is extremely beneficial during the recovery process. A supportive environment will help to minimize stress and relapse triggers.

Surrounding oneself with those who are committed to sobriety is also essential, as these support groups can provide healthy assistance. 12-Step programs and support groups offer enduring support throughout recovery. 

Studies have shown that patients who’ve received help for alcohol addiction and engaged in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) had a minor chance of relapsing.

Recognizing and Treating Co-Occurring Conditions

Underlying mental or medical health conditions can be possible relapse triggers. However, by treating both disorders simultaneously, recovery is possible. Integrated treatment programs that treat co-occurring disorders concurrently are vital in helping to maintain both disorders and allow long-term recovery for both conditions.

Alcohol use may appear to provide momentary relief for mental illness symptoms, but in reality, alcohol abuse conflicts with treatment for mental illness and will make symptoms more dangerous. By treating both disorders concurrently, symptoms will improve, and relapse can be avoided.

Get Help with Avoiding Triggers and Alcohol Relapse

Alcohol addiction and relapsing after an extended period of sobriety is a terrifying situation to overcome. However, the sequence of addiction can end with the proper form of treatment. Do not hesitate any longer to get help for alcohol addiction. 

Whether it’s your first time enrolling in rehab or if continued support is needed, our team at The Freedom Center can help you through this difficult time. To learn more about alcohol relapse and how to avoid triggers, contact us here

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