Why Do Drug Addicts Relapse When Things Are Going Well?

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When someone you love struggles with addiction, there is no better feeling than watching them get sober. While you may be proud of your loved one, you may still get anxious that they will relapse when the going gets rough.

Relapses do happen after life challenges and as a result painful emotions, but relapse can also happen when things are going well.

Why Some Addicts Relapse When Things Are Good

If your loved one has relapsed after seeming happy, hopeful, and motivated, you may be left wondering why addicts relapse when things are good. Although it can be difficult to understand, there are several common reasons why some addicts relapse when things are going well.

1. Things Aren’t Really Good

Many people start abusing drugs and alcohol to cope with difficult emotions, and at the beginning, it may be easy for them to hide their substance abuse from the people they love. Sometimes, family and friends don’t recognize a problem until it has gotten really bad because people struggling with addiction will go to extreme lengths to conceal their substance abuse issues.

The same idea can apply to the reasons behind relapse.

On the outside, everything may appear to be on the up and up. But if your loved one is struggling mentally or emotionally and not telling anyone, you may not know that anything is wrong. Your loved one may also be embarrassed or ashamed of their struggles, especially when everyone else is so happy with their progress, so they avoid asking for help.

2. They are Self-Sabotaging Their Sobriety

Low self-esteem is common among people who struggle with addiction. Although self-esteem issues can be addressed in therapy, they can always return later in sobriety. Low self-esteem can result in feelings of unworthiness, causing people to believe that they aren’t worthy of sobriety because of the bad things they have done in the past. Rather than continuing to thrive in sobriety, they begin to slip back into old behaviors and relapse even though things are going well.

3. Boredom and Lack of Motivation

Addiction often comes with a chaotic lifestyle that many people get used to. In comparison, sobriety can feel boring, and it can be difficult to find motivation when you are missing an exciting and chaotic lifestyle. Even when your loved one’s recovery is going smoothly, they may have a difficult time adjusting to a calm, sober lifestyle. They may begin romanticizing the idea of drug or alcohol use or relapse.

4. They are Too Confident for Their Own Good

Confidence is an important quality to have, but being too confident can be a bad thing.

People in recovery must go to therapy, attend meetings, practice self-care, and use healthy coping skills to deal with their triggers. If they stop doing these things, they stop treating their addiction and they could relapse.

When everything in life is going well, your loved one may become so confident in their ability to stay sober that they let their guard down. They may reduce the number of meetings they attend, drop out of therapy early, or move out of their sober living home sooner than they had planned. While they may seem independent and healthy, they may be moving a little too fast for their own good. If they let their guard down for too long, they could end up using drugs or alcohol again.

5. They Don’t Know How to Cope With Triggers

Triggers are people, places, or things that bring up unpleasant emotions or the urge to use drugs or alcohol. There are plenty of ways to cope with triggers, but it takes time to master these coping skills and learn how to use them. Some people know how to use coping skills, but they don’t know what their triggers are in the first place.

If everything is going well, but someone is exposed to something triggering and doesn’t cope with it properly, they could end up relapsing.

6. Underlying Issues

During rehab, therapists aim to address clients’ underlying issues to minimize the risk of relapse. Common underlying issues that contribute to addiction include trauma, mental health conditions, and unresolved emotions. Unfortunately, even if a person identifies their underlying issue, it could continue to affect their life. Your loved one may relapse when things are going well because they are suffering from an underlying issue.

Understanding the Stages of Relapse

Relapse usually happens in stages rather than suddenly. If you know what to look for, you may be able to intervene and stop a relapse before it happens. The three stages of relapse are:

  1. Emotional relapse – In this stage, people experience negative emotions such as anxiety, stress, and frustration. These emotions may trigger thoughts of using drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the discomfort. Signs of emotional relapse include mood changes, changes in behavior, changes in sleep or eating patterns, emotional outbursts, and social isolation.
  2. Mental relapse – During a mental relapse, people begin having intense cravings and begin to think about using drugs or alcohol. They may start to romanticize their past drug use and minimize the negative consequences. Signs of mental relapse may include stopping going to meetings, making jokes about substance abuse, or returning to old behaviors.
  3. Physical relapse – In this final stage, people actually engage in drug or alcohol use, despite their previous efforts to quit. Once they start using again, it can be difficult to stop and the cycle of addiction can start all over again.

Find Lasting Recovery with New Jersey Addiction Interventions

Addiction is a complex disease that requires long-term treatment, self-care, and recovery maintenance. Although relapse is a part of recovery for many people, it doesn’t have to be a part of your journey. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and relapse and need to find effective treatment, please contact us today. Our talented team of addiction specialists can assess your needs and help you find the right treatment program for you. Call now to get started.

Medically Reviewed: May 15, 2023

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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