What to Do After a Relapse | Treatment for Chronic Relapsers

chronic relapses

Relapse is not an indication of failure. Staying clean and sober is challenging. in fact, about 70-90 percent of recovering addicts experience “at least one mild to moderate slip,” which doesn’t mean the recovery program failed or the recovering addict failed. It is important, however, to know what to do after a relapse. Treatment for chronic relapsers involves the recovering addict, the addict’s family and friends, and a quality treatment program.


Triggers and temptations abound for the recovering addict. A relapse can happen to you or to your loved one when something familiar triggers a desire to return to drugs or alcohol. It could be something as simple as a song playing on the radio that reminds you of a time when you were with your friends and feeling the high from your drug of choice at that time.

As a recovering addict, if you are tempted to return to using drugs or alcohol after successfully completing treatment or going through an addiction recovery program, it does not mean that either the recovery program or you have failed in any way. The addiction itself changes the brain and changes the way you are able to recognize problems and plan solutions. So, when the temptation arises, through triggers, you need to treat the relapse.


Chronic relapse means that you have these temptations and succumb to the triggers more than once in your recovery. Chronic relapse is also very common, because of the very nature of the addiction itself. Addiction is considered to be a chronic disease which, just like other chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension, has both physiological and behavioral components. Treating these types of chronic diseases involves changing deeply imbedded behaviors.

Chronic relapse is a cycle of relapse where the addict will alternate through periods of addiction or abstention. A chronic relapser needs professional help to break this relapse cycle of addiction. It is not something you can successfully get through on your own.


The key to treatment for chronic relapses is to refocus the mind and to resist the temptations of triggers that occur after you complete your addiction recovery. Just like other chronic illnesses, relapses should serve as triggers themselves – for renewed intervention and treatment.

The first ninety days in recovery are typically when you are most susceptible to relapses. Drugs have rewired your brain and it takes time to repair the wiring after you have given up the drugs. At any point after your recovery, however, even years later, you can be highly reactive to the cues associated with your drug use. To help avoid a relapse, you should avoid the people and places that you frequented when you were using.

Dealing with rehab relapse quickly and breaking the relapse cycle is paramount to helping the addict live a better life. After a relapse, get back on track with your recovery treatment and continue to avoid those triggers. Additionally, treatment for chronic relapses includes:

  • Surrounding yourself with positive, sober people. Continuing to associate with the same people you were with when you were using drugs and alcohol is one of the major causes of chronic relapses.
  • Joining a support group, which could include the alumni group from your treatment center. Support groups add an element of accountability to your continued recovery.
  • Working on new ways to cope, particularly with stressful situations. Exercise and yoga programs, for example, can help you heal your whole self.
  • Minding the HALT. Recognize the relapse triggers of being too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
  • Staying vigilant of the signs of a potential relapse. Use your support group and your circle of positive, sober people to help you resist temptations.
  • Realizing that a relapse is not a failure, but an opportunity to get back on track with your recovery.
  • Reaching out for help to continue your addiction recovery.


After a relapse, it is important to get professional help to continue on your path to recovery. As you reach out for help, keep in mind the following points for treatment programs.

Gender-specific rehab is highly effective as it allows men or women to focus on their recovery as opposed to each other. Just as men and women are different, the issues they usually need to address in rehab are usually sensitive in nature and best be done in a safe and supportive setting of other clients of the same gender.

Ideally, the rehab program will have a primary component for a minimum of 90 days, and then a step-down program of aftercare for one year or longer. Aftercare monitoring programs with multiple contacts a week in addition to group meetings offer additional support. Sober living can be included or optional, but also offers an extra layer of support and guidance for the newly sober person.

Contact BRC Recovery to Learn More About Treatment for Chronic Relapses

At BRC Recovery, we believe that everyone can find a better path if they truly want it for themselves. If you want to find out more about our services, we suggest you call BRC Recovery 1-866-461-1759 to speak to our team.