March 11, 2023
Stop Drinking Expert Review

Alcohol Relapse: What To Do If You Fell Off The Wagon

Alcohol addiction is a challenging condition that affects millions of people worldwide. For some, the journey towards sobriety can be a difficult and winding road, with many ups and downs. Unfortunately, relapse is common during recovery, and it can be discouraging for those who experience it.

However, it is essential to remember that relapse is not a sign of failure, but rather an opportunity to learn and grow. This article will discuss what to do if you fell off the wagon and how to get back on track towards a healthy and sober life.

Understanding Alcohol Relapse

Relapse is defined as a return to alcohol use after a period of abstinence. It can happen for many reasons, including stress, social pressure, emotional triggers, and physical cravings. It is essential to understand that relapse is not a moral failing, but rather a part of the addiction and recovery process.

Signs of Alcohol Relapse

Before discussing what to do if you fell off the wagon, it is important to recognize the signs of relapse. These may include:

  • Reconnecting with old drinking buddies
  • Hiding or lying about alcohol consumption
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work or home
  • Experiencing intense cravings for alcohol
  • Feeling irritable or moody
  • Suffering from anxiety or depression

What to Do If You Fell Off the Wagon

If you have relapsed and are struggling to regain your sobriety, there are several things you can do to get back on track.

1. Acknowledge Your Relapse

The first step towards recovery is admitting that you have relapsed. It can be tempting to deny or hide your relapse, but this will only make the situation worse. Acknowledge your mistake, take responsibility for your actions, and forgive yourself.

2. Seek Support

Recovery is not a journey that you have to undertake alone. Reach out to your support system, whether it be friends, family, or a therapist. Attend support group meetings or consider joining a new one if you haven’t already.

3. Identify Your Triggers

Reflect on what led to your relapse and identify your triggers. Triggers can be internal, such as stress or anxiety, or external, such as social situations or certain people. Once you identify your triggers, you can develop a plan to avoid or cope with them.

4. Develop a Plan

Work with your therapist or support group to develop a plan for moving forward. This plan may include:

  • Creating a daily routine that prioritizes self-care and healthy habits
  • Avoiding triggers and risky situations
  • Developing coping mechanisms for stress or emotional triggers
  • Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques
  • Reaching out for help when needed

5. Take Action

Taking action towards your recovery is crucial. This may involve seeking treatment, joining a support group, or working with a therapist. It is also essential to stay committed to your plan and take small steps towards your sobriety every day.

Alcohol relapse is unfortunately a common occurrence in individuals recovering from alcohol addiction. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 40-60% of individuals in recovery experience at least one relapse. There are several reasons why relapse is so common among those recovering from alcohol addiction.


Triggers are often the leading cause of relapse in individuals recovering from alcohol addiction. Triggers can be internal, such as stress or anxiety, or external, such as social situations or certain people. When faced with triggers, individuals may experience intense cravings for alcohol, making it difficult to resist the temptation to drink.

Underlying Mental Health Conditions

Underlying mental health conditions can also contribute to alcohol relapse. Conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often linked to addiction and can make it difficult for individuals to stay sober. In some cases, individuals may use alcohol as a way to cope with their mental health symptoms, which can lead to relapse.

Lack of Support

Recovery is not a journey that one has to undertake alone, and the lack of support can often lead to relapse. Individuals with a strong support system, such as friends, family, or a therapist, are more likely to succeed in their recovery journey. Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), can also provide a sense of community and encouragement for individuals in recovery.


Overconfidence can also lead to relapse in individuals recovering from alcohol addiction. After a period of sobriety, individuals may begin to feel like they have control over their addiction, leading them to believe that they can handle drinking alcohol in moderation. Unfortunately, this can quickly lead to a return to excessive drinking and relapse.

Lack of Coping Mechanisms

Individuals may struggle to manage stress or emotional triggers without proper coping mechanisms, leading to relapse. Coping mechanisms, such as mindfulness and relaxation techniques, can help individuals manage their emotions and cravings for alcohol.


Alcohol relapse is unfortunately a common occurrence among those recovering from alcohol addiction. Triggers, underlying mental health conditions, lack of support, overconfidence, and lack of coping mechanisms can all contribute to relapse. It is important for individuals in recovery to be aware of these factors and to develop a plan for managing them. With proper support, coping mechanisms, and a commitment to sobriety, individuals can overcome their addiction and maintain their recovery journey.


  1. Is relapse common during alcohol recovery?

Yes, relapse is common during alcohol recovery. It is estimated that 40-60% of individuals in recovery experience at least one relapse.

  1. Is it normal to feel ashamed after a relapse?

Yes, it is normal to feel ashamed after a relapse. However, it is important to remember that relapse is not a moral failing and does not mean you cannot achieve sobriety. Seek support and focus on moving forward.

  1. Can a relapse be prevented?

While it is not always possible to prevent a relapse, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of it happening. This may include attending therapy or support group meetings, practicing healthy habits, and avoiding triggers.

  1. How long does it take to recover from a relapse?

The recovery process after a relapse can vary depending on the individual and the circumstances. It is important to stay committed to your recovery plan and take small steps towards sobriety every day.

  1. What should I do if a loved one has relapsed?

If a loved one has relapsed, it is essential to offer support and understanding. Encourage them to seek help, and remind them that relapse is a normal part of the recovery process. Offer to attend support group meetings or therapy sessions with them, and be patient as they work towards sobriety.

Alcohol Relapse: What To Do If You Fell Off The Wagon


  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  • Donovan, D. M. (1995). Assessment issues and domains in the prediction of relapse. Addiction, 90(Suppl. 2), S33-S44.
  • Kadden, R. M., Litt, M. D., Donovan, D. M., & Cooney, N. L. (2003). Matching alcoholism treatments to client heterogeneity: Project MATCH posttreatment drinking outcomes. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 64(1), 7-29.
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020). Treatment and recovery. Retrieved from
  • Witkiewitz, K., Marlatt, G. A., & Walker, D. (2005). Mindfulness-based relapse prevention for alcohol and substance use disorders. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 19(3), 211-228.


  • (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)
  • (Donovan, 1995)
  • (Kadden et al., 2003)
  • (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2020)
  • (Witkiewitz et al., 2005)
About the Stop drinking expert

Craig Beck ABNLP. ABHYP. DhP. ICS. has been a professional alcohol cessation therapist since 2010. He has helped over 250,000 problem drinkers using his personal experience and professional training in the field of addiction recovery.

After struggling with his own alcohol addiction issues, Craig went on a journey of self-discovery and learning, studying the underlying causes of alcohol use disorders and how to overcome them. He has since become a board-certified Master Practitioner of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), The American Board of Hypnotherapy certified therapist, and an ICS-certified life coach specializing in alcohol addiction recovery.

Craig's personal experience with alcoholism gives him a unique perspective on the challenges of quitting drinking and staying sober. He understands the emotional and psychological factors contributing to addiction and knows how to help people overcome them.

In addition, Craig's formal training and certifications provide him with the knowledge and skills to develop effective strategies and techniques for addiction recovery. The Stop Drinking Expert approach to alcohol addiction uses a unique combination of CBT techniques and NLP reframing.

Craig's qualifications are evident in his successful track record helping people quit drinking. Craig Beck is the author of several alcohol addiction books, such as "Alcohol Lied to Me" and "The Alcohol Illusion".
His website,, provides a comprehensive guide on how to quit drinking, including practical tips, strategies, and resources for recovery.

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