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There is a saying in recovery that goes, “Once we think we got this thing, we might have another thing coming.” This is saying that it can be easy to become complacent in our recovery. That complacency can easily lead to relapse (and it quite often does), and with alcohol relapse comes inevitable alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol relapse and withdrawal can rarely be separated, but the good news is they can be managed.

The Prevalence of Relapse in the U.S.

Many people don’t realize just how prevalent relapse is in the U.S. These include relapses for people who are coming out of treatment facilities and recovery centers. 

As stated in Current Psychiatry Reports, “It has long been known that addictive disorders are chronic and relapsing in nature. Recent estimates from clinical treatment studies suggest that more than two-thirds of individuals relapse within weeks to months of initiating treatment.” Also, “For 1-year outcomes across alcohol, nicotine, weight, and illicit drug abuse, studies show that more than 85% of individuals relapse and return to drug use within one year of treatment.” These are staggering statistics. 

However, we should not become disenfranchised by these statistics. Instead, we should be emboldened and empowered by them to make a change. That change can start by better understanding why relapses happen.

Why Does Alcohol Relapse Happen?

Alcohol Relapses happen for many reasons. In 12-Step recovery, these reasons are broken down into three components. A relapse might happen because of the “mental obsession” of the mind, the “physical allergy” of the body, or the “spiritual malady” of the soul. This is not as complex or as eccentric as it may sound.

Many people relapse long before they take the first drink. This is because they have gotten away from their recovery program and recovery community (such as a 12-Step community or recovery center alumni group). When this happens, they start to forget that the solution to their problem is an emotional or spiritual one, not a synthetic one (like alcohol).

Thus, the relapse happens in the mind before the body. When an individual takes the first drink, it merely makes the alcohol relapse “official” because someone with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) is not going to be able to stop after that first drink. As they say in many recovery meetings, “One drink is too many, and a thousand is never enough.” Of course, this is where relapse and withdrawal will soon collide.

How to Deal With an Alcohol Relapse and Withdrawal

While it may be hard to comprehend, relapse and alcohol withdrawal are not the two worst things to go together. It would be much worse if it were “relapse and continued drinking.” Relapse and alcohol withdrawal means that an individual has stopped drinking. That is the first step. Many people are often surprised that, once they relapse, their addiction picks up right where they left off. Often, it picks up in a worse place than where it was left. This is because addiction is a progressive disease, and without proper intervention, it will almost always get worse. For a relapse, that intervention must happen again. 

The first thing to remember about alcohol relapse and withdrawal is not to panic and remember that alcohol withdrawal will pass. The next thing to remember is to reach out to a professional. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time or the hundredth; alcohol withdrawals can be dangerous, even deadly. If a professional detox isn’t available right away, it is always a good idea to reconnect to a recovery community. They will both be able to empathize and know the next steps to take.

Also, whether a relapse is short or extended, it is important to come up with a relapse prevention plan so alcohol relapse and withdrawal are less likely to happen again. This may include setting boundaries in the home regarding having alcohol around and having an effective sober network ready and waiting. This network should consist of recovery professionals, recovery community members, and recovery center alumni.

The Goal of Long-Term Recovery at The Phoenix Recovery Center

Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we don’t believe in short-term fixes. We have found that going about recovery haphazardly is a surefire way to bring about a relapse. No, we believe in long-term recovery, which is why all of our treatment plans are both individualized and comprehensive.

Yes, sadly, alcohol relapse and withdrawal can be a part of someone’s recovery journey. However, it is important to remember that relapse never has to be the end. It can be the new start of a great and productive long-term recovery. We must not forget that it’s never about how we fall down; it’s how we get back up that counts.

Relapses are more common in the United States than many people may think. The sad reality is that many people don’t make it back from a relapse. One of the reasons for this is that people are anxious about going through alcohol withdrawal and the alcohol detox process again. The good news is that recovery after a relapse is possible, especially with the help of treatment and detox professionals. If you feel like you or a loved one needs help coming back from a relapse, we can help. For more information about chronic relapsing and relapse prevention plans that can hopefully help to avoid alcohol withdrawals altogether, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT