Home » Addiction Information » Psychology of Relapse: How to Stay Motivated During and After Drug/Alcohol Treatment

Psychology of Relapse: How to Stay Motivated During and After Drug/Alcohol Treatment

Addiction relapse in treatment is common. According to various studies, nearly 50% of all individuals who are in rehab return to use, with 70 to 90% experiencing at least one mild to moderate relapse. With that being said, the number of people walking into a rehab center and never using substances again is quite small. The question many scientists, neurologists, and researchers ask themselves is why patients frequently fail to comply with their treatments.

The answer to this question is that unfortunately, the detoxification process is the easiest part when it comes to sobering up. Changing the mental apparatus that compels addicts to use is significantly more difficult. Addiction changes brains and it takes time and hard work to change brains back.

What Causes Relapse

What triggers relapse? Addiction specialists agree that there are certain things that increase the chances that relapse may happen. The top 5 reasons for relapsing are:


Stress is one of the main triggers of relapse. Recovering addicts experience various types of stress because they are in the midst of making lifestyle and relationship changes. If the addict does not avoid situations that can spark tension and negative feelings, then that person may turn to drugs or alcohol as a stress relief. Alcohol and drugs are regarded as a solution to stress and might be used as an opportunity to unwind. Even if the addict had stopped taking drugs for an extended period of time, being exposed to stress could be enough to go back to old life-threatening habits.

Places and people associated with addiction

Another trigger for relapse might be the places and people addicts associate with negative behaviors. Hanging around old friends they used to abuse with, in places they frequently met and got high, might push them to relapse. Therefore, people in recovery should stay away from visiting people or places that were part of their addiction.

Negative emotions

Negative emotions such as anger, tiredness, and loneliness can take a toll on addicts’ bodies and decrease their ability to think clearly and cope with situations of daily life. It can alter their mood and make hope or progress seem intangible. It is vital for addicts in recovery to effectively identify and manage these emotions. Moreover, romantic relationships should only begin once the addict can manage their emotions.


Not all triggers arise from something negative. Positive feelings can also be powerful triggers. Getting a new job, a promotion, or any positive life change can feed the mentality that using again just once is perfectly fine. Avoiding such celebrations or bringing a trusted companion can be helpful in preventing relapse.

Shaky support system

Recovery is easier with the right support system of people who truly understand the difficulties of addiction. Recovering addicts frequently attend AA or NA meetings where they can meet other people who are experiencing the same struggles. Building a support system makes recovering addicts less vulnerable to picking up a drink or drug when they feel tempted.

Maintaining a Balanced Recovery

Motivation is an essential part of recovery. Staying motivated is vital because it encourages recovering addicts to be brave, openly share their goals and challenges with family and friends, and make long-lasting changes. There are several different ways to stay motivated in recovery and each one has proven to help individuals get back on track when they have hit a plateau.

Get psychological help 

There are many evidence-based practices that can successfully increase motivation, including Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET). MI is a psychotherapeutic approach that moves the patients towards finding motivation to make positive changes and accomplish established goals. Furthermore, MET is a person-centered approach to therapy that focuses on improving an individual’s motivation to change. This can help the individual to view behaviors more objectively and become empowered to begin the process of change.

Seek medical help

Medication-assisted treatment can relieve symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings, and block the brain’s ability to experience the substance effect. Certain medications have proven to be highly helpful in reducing cravings after successful completion of detox and promote extended periods of sobriety. Recovering addicts should consider the use of medications such as naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine.


Individuals who surround themselves with supportive people who encourage their recovery have better chances at getting better. Friends and family members have the power to boost motivation by offering their unconditional love and support. Patients should build a network of positive, upbeat, and motivational people whom they can depend on when life gets rough.


Education about the rehabilitation process, relapse triggers, and life after addiction is highly important. The more an individual understands about the addiction and treatment, the bigger the chances of improvement. This education includes data about what substance abuse is, warning signs of addiction, information about how alcohol and drugs affect the mind and body, and consequences of addiction on physical and mental health.

Positive self-talk

Positive self-talk is a powerful influence on a recovering addict’s attitude and decision-making. It can influence the way individuals think about themselves, help them get things done, achieve their goals, and maintain a positive focus. Some of the most helpful positive self-talk statements that individuals can use in their recovery include:

  • I have mastered a problem before and I am going to do it again. 
  • These negative feelings are just fleeting feelings and I can change them.
  • I am not in a dangerous situation and thinking positively can help me. 
  • Even when I am anxious, depressed, or stressed I can figure out a solution.

Take better care of yourself

Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and establishing normal sleep patterns are an important part of life after addiction. Implementing a healthy lifestyle in the recovery process can boost self-confidence. It can also improve immunity, encourage higher energy levels, and will give any recovering addict a healthier appearance. Individuals should get 30 minutes of exercise a day, most days of the week, 7-9 hours of sleep at night, eat healthy foods that keep then energized, and stay hydrated.

Celebrate your accomplishments

Whether it is a massage, a trip to a Bucket-list destination or indulging in something sweet, rewards can keep an individual motivated in achieving goals. It is a wise idea to give yourself the luxury of a celebration for a job well-done or for a reached milestone.

For more information please call this Toll Free 24/7 Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a completely confidential call. If you have health insurance it may cover up to 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now!

Comments are closed.