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6 Most Common Reasons for Addiction Relapse

Mark Heather
January 16, 2023

Embarking on the recovery journey demands indescribable strength. The obstacles on the journey will be many, and relapse is, unfortunately, for many people it is part of the addiction cycle. While there are many of reasons and factors that may cause someone to relapse or even slip during their recovery journey, the 6 most common causes for relapse are:

  1. Setting unrealistic expectations.
  2. Feeling of boredom & isolation.
  3. Lack of strong relapse prevention plan.
  4. Resentment and regret.
  5. Pride and overconfidence.
  6. Poor self-care and hygiene management.


Having unrealistic expectations when you're in the early days of your recovery from drug or alcohol abuse is dangerous.  If you set impossible expectations that you can't possibly attain, all you get is unnecessary stress, and self-inflicted pressure that only considerably lowers your chances of changing your lifestyle.

So, how can you shield yourself from unrealistic expectations when glamourized depictions of substance use are lurking behind every corner? Alcohol and drug abuse are present at the core of so many TV shows and movies, books, and even music, so it’s important to have clear goals and always remember that reality doesn't always go to plan.

Below are just a few of the most common unrealistic expectations that people set for there recovery:

  • Expecting that the journey will be easy.
  • Not realizing how much work and strength is needed for a long term, successful recovery.
  • Hoping to feel better the moment they begin treatment.
  • Thinking you can do it all by yourself without any help.
  • Expecting your recovery journey to always go in a positive direction.
  • Being disappointed that results don't happen as fast as you want them to.
  • Thinking that everything will be easy after treatment, your life will get back to normal, and all problems will somehow disappear.
  • Thinking that being recovery has an end date.
  • Expecting perfection or too much from yourself.
  • Believing that trust of your family and friends will automatically be restored.

Such expectations are dangerous because they can negatively impact your progress, making them the biggest reasons for addiction relapse. When things are not going the way you have imagined them, you can be more inclined to give up and return to your old habits.

In negative situations, you might start to think "the treatment is not working, why should I bother to keep following the program?" or even use the difficult times as an excuse to start using again.

If you don't have a solid plan in that that includes these expectations , it can lead to:

  • Disappointment
  • Self-judgment
  • Excessive pressure

stages of relapse effect your emotions

Boredom and Isolation

Besides unrealistic expectations, boredom and isolation is the 2nd most common reasons for someone to relapse. Before seeing treatment an addict would spend their time using mind-altering substances,  thinking about how to get more of their substance of choice, using the alcohol or drugs to get intoxicated or high, then needing more time to get through any hang over or withdrawal effects.

When someone starts treatment and are new to sobriety, it can be difficult to know how to fill all this free time. When you have nothing to occupy yourself with, you get bad company—loneliness and boredom. Unsettling thoughts and unpleasant emotions can start to occupy your head. For this reason, it's vital for people in recovery to:

  • Find a job that keeps their mind occupied.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Have 1 or more hobbies.
  • Join support groups and attend meetings.
  • Spend time preparing healthy meals.

It's important for everyone, not just those in recovery to  have constructive ways to occupy their free time and instill structure and routine in their daily life. Routine helps to keep you on the right track. However, it's crucial to find the perfect balance. that is aligned with your relapse prevention plan. It's not advisable to schedule one activity after another as it can lead you to avoiding your emotions and thoughts. These are things that you will have to deal with eventually, and avoiding them is just another step on the path towards a relapse.

Lack of a Relapse Prevention Plan

Having a reliable support system and going to therapy is critical because old feelings and habits can quickly resurface without them. You can't get through all the emotions and physical effects of addiction alone. You must create a solid plan to keep you on the right track, and have a network that supports you an also holds you accountable.

The first step for most addicts is to start a residential rehab program. Attending these types of centers is necessary for heavy users, and allows you to access help from people who have experienced the same emotions and effects of being addicted to alcohol or drugs, and  can teach you the right skills and coping mechanisms that will help you to reach your goals.

During your rehab program at Miracles Asia all guests begin to craft and set in place and a relapse prevention plan with their therapists and support staff which includes additional support such as:

  • Morning check-in meetings each morning.
  • Evening meetings with Miracles Asia Alumni and International Speakers.
  • Support system of community groups & friends.
  • Ensuring your housing, life essentials, a healthy diet are all manageable long term.
  • How to move your life away from triggers, such as places, people, and situations that will drive you to use again.

stress and addiction relapse


Anyone who starts their journey to recovery has a past. Most of the time its one that isn't usually one people are proud of or want to think about. It's important to remember that everybody has done things they regret, not just addicts. Additionally, everybody has been treated in a way that has made them feel angry or resentful.

These feelings can lead you down two very different paths:

  1. Learning valuable lessons and moving forward, while making promising yourself never to be put in similar situations.
  2. Holding tightly to the feeling of resentment, lashing out in irrational ways, and then isolating yourself.

Everyone processes their anger and resentment differently, however some ways are healthier than others. The first path is the one you should strive for.

When in recovery, you need to keep your emotions in order. Holding on to toxic feelings is a road to relapse.

Pride and Overconfidence

You may experience that initial dose of enthusiasm when you are new to sobriety, thinking you will never touch alcohol or use drugs again. Terrible memories of the dark days are so off-putting that your recovery is a pleasant experience you want to relish. Being confident and optimistic on this journey feels fantastic, but overconfidence may cause you to lower your guard.

Everyone is susceptible to relapse. One bad thought is all it takes to make poor choices.

Part of your relapse prevention plan should include a note to not be so confident in think that you can put yourself in any situation and prevail, just to prove something to yourself or others.

If you have had a great experience so far, don't start to think it will always be easy, as it will only lead to complacency. Being complacent is one of most common reasons for addiction relapse. Skip that party if you have any doubts or concerns you might be tempted to drink or use. You don't have to prove to anyone that you can stay sober. Stick to your plan and avoid triggers without feeling you need to explain yourself, or demonstrate your able to handle any situation.

Poor self-care

Looking after yourself is an essential part of addiction therapy, and it is important you keep that going once you've finished your rehab program. Not only does it you feel good about yourself, it's a clear message to others that you care about your own well-being.

The opposite is also true. If you start to neglect yourself, you are sending a clear message that your well-being is no longer a priority, which is an indication that you are not following your relapse prevention plans, and it might not be long until you start to use again.

A few basic examples of good elf-care can be:

  • A healthy diet—After your organism has been through an ordeal. You body needs healthy, nutritious meals to recover. A diet high in sugar and low in nutrients can impact your physical health, as well as your psychological and neurological health, which will most certainly have an affect your mood and trigger relapse.
  • Good sleep hygiene—Lack of sleep makes people irritable, stressed, anxious, and moody.
  • Physical exercise—Physical activity is an integral part of self-care. Just like a good diet, it will help you feel better, look better, improve your health, and have a structure in your life

Remember That Recovery is a Process

While relapse can be a part of recovery, planning how to manage your emotions and using your support network when you feel tempted or pressured to use your substance of choice is is vitally important. The longer you remain sober, the better the chances for long-term success. Learning about common reasons for addiction relapse will help you stay sober.

If you do happen to fall off the wagon, don't give up. Talk to your support network and therapists about your feelings and emotions of what lead to the slip and adjust the approach to your to include what caused it and keep moving forward.

Article written by Mark Heather
Mark is the founder and Managing Director of Miracles Asia. He has been in recovery for 25 years and Mark is passionate about supporting his clients and manages Miracles on a day-to-day basis. Mark always remains available to current and past clients while actively takes part in 12-step group sessions.
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