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Causes of Relapse

The Causes of Relapse: Precursors to Be Aware Of

There are many causes of relapse, being aware of them and yourself is the key to avoiding relapse like a pro. Make sound decisions, and take things one step at a time to protect yourself in early recovery.


When you are in early recovery, you’re an emotional mess. As Ron Burgundy says “I’m trapped in a glass case of emotion!” You will have all these feelings you haven’t had or felt in a very long time. Everything is upsetting, the highs and lows are a roller coaster. You feel things at level 10, everything is life and death. There’s a lot of black and white thinking.

So of course, this is the best time to get back into the dating pool or have a full-on rehab romance with someone as sick as you. Literally everyone will tell you it’s a horrible idea, it will end in a train wreck of epic proportions and scar everyone for life, but you in your infinite wisdom and best thinking charge full on ahead.
There is no stopping you, because:

  • these people don’t know you,
  • this time is different,
  • in the six days you know each other, you have trauma bonded over Subs, Klonopin and poor decision making.
  • your marketer thinks you’re perfect together
  • your dad hates him
  • your mom hates her
  • your therapist hates you both

But don’t worry ladies and gents, rehab romances can include great experiences like…

  • Outdoor sex with semi strangers and bugs. Avon Skin So Soft does not prevent pregnancy ladies.
  • Car sex with headliner burns to your forehead. Don’t worry he said he has leather seats in his 1996 Nissan Sentra with 260,000 miles.
  • Sneaking out of your bedroom window after forming a negative contract with your roommate, not knowing there’s a camera there and you tore your shirt, got a bruise near your belly button from the window case, as it tore out your belly ring, leaving a pool of blood like a Joe Kenda Homicide Hunter episode.
  • He shows up for your date in an uber pool and takes you to an NA meeting where he bums cigarettes in the parking lot and fist bumps 68 people, then talks about how everyone is “judge-y and not very spiritual”.
  • Sex in the clubhouse bathroom where you inadvertently leave your panties in stall number three with your ID. I thought sobriety was supposed to be different?
  • Getting a handy in the white Econoline 15 passenger van that smells like a junior high school gym in Georgia on a hot day, on the way to your individual session at IOP.
  • Relapsing after you hooked up with a friend-with-benefits who just relapsed, and thinking you were meant for each other because you both relapsed on heroin.


Any type of stress can send you into relapse mode. Bad news, death, good news, new job, new apartment, car repairs, not getting a thank you. What’s also common is anniversary stress. When you’re about to get 90 days, 6 months or a year some people flip out. I know a guy who was on day 364, his parents were coming to anniversary night, we were all excited because it took him years and years to get there, there was a party planned, and he just got too weirded out and stressed over it and relapsed hard. Like really hard. Thankfully today, he has over a year, a business, a spouse, and a new baby.

Mental and Physical Illness

Some people in recovery also suffer from various behavioral health issues. Staying sober for them is just harder, as they may hear voices, they are depressed, they’re manic. These things amplify every problem, amplify every issue, and make all the solutions harder to implement.

Physical illness also makes it harder— people may need surgery, go through intense physical pain, dread and worry. Family and friends going through this can be equally bad for you. My mother was on kidney dialysis my first few years of sobriety and her health was a major stressor for me, then my father got sick as well and suddenly I’m the primary caregiver for both with little or no help from my two siblings. Health issues , even chronic health issues have emergencies and urgent issues that can throw us off our game.


Perhaps the most dangerous thing to be in early recovery is bored. Boredom can lead to relapse fairly easily for us, our minds and bodies are used to needing to be occupied. Stay involved in a program of recovery, get a hobby, read books in your free time, do things to keep yourself busy.

Reach Out

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, please reach out to us at 877-RECOVER or 877-732-6837. Our addiction specialists are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.

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