Alcohol Addiction Relapse Warning Signs

May 22, 2017 Jami DeLoe

Alcohol addiction relapse happens to many, if not most, alcoholics. Learn about the warning signs of alcohol addiction relapse and how to avoid it right here.

There are some pretty noticeable warning signs of an alcohol addiction relapse. No one wants to relapse once they have worked hard to get sober. Unfortunately, many people do. In fact, it is said that relapse is a part of recovery, and it is true that there is a high rate of relapse in those who have achieved sobriety, especially in the first several months of recovery. I know that it happened to me. I relapsed many times before I was finally able to stay sober. Being able to recognize the warning signs of an alcohol addiction relapse and practicing relapse prevention techniques when they come up can help you stay on the path of recovery.

Alcohol Addiction Relapse Is a Process

Alcohol addiction relapse doesn’t just happen suddenly, it’s a process that begins before you drink. If you understand the progression, you can identify when you’re in trouble and use the addiction recovery tools you have learned to avoid relapse. The three phases of relapse are: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse.

Emotional Relapse in Alcohol Addiction

In this phase of relapse, you’re probably not thinking about drinking again, but you may be exhibiting signs that point to a risk of relapse. Some of these signs are:

  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Anger or irritability
  • Not asking for help
  • Not attending recovery meetings or other therapy or support groups
  • Defensiveness
  • Not eating, grooming, or sleeping well

It is easiest to prevent relapse during this phase. The later phases usually progress faster and have a much stronger draw toward relapse.

Mental Relapse in Alcohol Addiction

This phase does include thinking about drinking. It’s often a war in the mind – one part wants to stay sober, another wants to drink. Some of the signs of mental relapse in alcohol addiction are:

  • Romanticizing past drinking
  • Fantasizing about drinking
  • Lying
  • Actively thinking about how you will drink again
  • Planning how to get away with drinking

It is hard in this phase to make good decisions, but it can be done if you use relapse prevention strategies.

Physical Relapse in Alcohol Addiction

If you make it to this phase and drink, all is not lost. If you are able to return to recovery and seek help right away, you can get back on track.

Alcohol Addiction Relapse Prevention

If you are able to identify the warning signs of alcohol addiction relapse and act on them quickly, you can prevent relapse from happening. There are many techniques that help with relapse prevention. Some of them include:

  • Distracting yourself. While you don’t want to attempt to avoid the newly felt emotions of early recovery, sometimes distracting yourself works to get you past the urge to drink. Any positive thing that takes your mind off drinking can help – watching TV, reading, taking a walk, cleaning, working on hobbies, etc.
  • Waiting out cravings. Most cravings pass within about a half an hour. Try doing something productive when a craving comes up and see if you can wait it out.
  • Talking to someone. Call or visit someone you trust who knows that you are in recovery. It can be anyone who is supportive of what you are doing, a trusted friend or sponsor, your therapist, or someone else in recovery. When you know that you are not alone, it’s helpful in preventing relapse.
  • Going to a meeting. Twelve step or other recovery meetings are valuable at every phase of relapse. If you belong to a group, see if there is a meeting you can go to.
  • Exercising. Physical activity can help reduce the stress and anxiety that you are feeling and it’s good for your physical health.
  • Writing it down. Many times, the act of putting your feelings down on paper is a way to get the destructive or painful thoughts out of your head.

When you understand the warning signs and phases of alcohol addiction relapse, you can head them off at the pass. Having techniques in place ahead of time will help you avoid physical relapse and stay rooted in your recovery.

APA Reference
DeLoe, J. (2017, May 22). Alcohol Addiction Relapse Warning Signs, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: Jami DeLoe

Jami DeLoe is a freelance writer and addiction blogger. She is an advocate for mental health awareness and addiction recovery and is a recovering alcoholic herself. Find Jami DeLoe on her blog, Sober GraceTwitter, and Facebook.

Barkha Singh
June, 2 2017 at 5:38 am

Very good article I like the information you provide in this article. Alcohol Addiction is very harm full for our health. So we should always try not to depend on it here are the some symptoms of alcohol dependence
1) Significant hangovers, and increase in time needed to recover from after-effects of alcohol use
2) Reduced attention to personal and professional responsibilities
3) Repeated unsuccessful efforts to reduce alcohol consumption
4) Withdrawal symptoms when unable to consume alcohol

Richard Alberto
June, 2 2017 at 1:16 am

Very informative post about Alcohol Addiction Signs.

May, 29 2017 at 4:52 pm

Thanks Jami, this is very helpful

Kiara Hartwell
May, 25 2017 at 7:41 pm

Great informative post and very accurate!

Lizanne Corbit
May, 22 2017 at 7:29 pm

I love that you broke down the different possible relapses (physical, mental, emotional). I think most people only consider one or two but presenting warning signs in all three areas is so helpful. I think romanticizing past drinking is a huge one and definitely one to be mindful of (also, not necessarily one that people would pin point as a warning sign). I think this is a very helpful read for those working through recovery and all those who are supporting them. Thank you for sharing.

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