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Dangers of Relapsing on Alcohol

Relapsing on alcohol while in recovery for alcohol addiction is so common that treatment professional and recovering alcoholics sometimes see relapse as a part of recovery. But whether or not a relapse fits into an overall path of recovery, it presents real dangers.

Physical Dangers of Alcohol Relapse

During a period of abstinence, an alcoholic’s body will re-adjust to functioning without alcohol in the bloodstream. With that re-adjustment, the tolerance to the effects of alcohol that was built up over the course of the addiction mostly disappears. Recovering alcoholics will often relapse by drinking the same amount they were accustomed to before entering into recovery. This mismatch can create dangers for a relapsing alcoholic, including the following:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Falls
  • Fights

Repeated relapse and recovery can even make the effects of alcohol withdrawal more painful each time a new round of abstinence begins.

Psychological Dangers of Alcohol Relapse

The psychological stability and resolve needed to restart and continue with recovery can also be threatened by a relapse. The feelings of disappointment and lost effort can lead to despair. Hope for a better life is needed in order to support the difficult work of recovery.

A more subtle psychological danger is the possibility that drinking again will not seem so bad. Instead of sickness, injury and embarrassment, resuming drinking might not have immediate ill effects. This scenario, however, can leave an opening for the old patterns of alcoholism to become reestablished which could be even more dangerous in the end.

Social Dangers for Recovering Alcoholics

Alcoholics are seldom alone in their suffering or their recoveries. Sometimes the most painful part of a relapse is knowing the disappointment it will bring to family, friends and others who have helped an alcoholic recover from his addiction.

Counselors and other alcoholics are unlikely to withdraw support after a relapse. Family or friends who are less familiar with the common ups and downs of alcoholism recovery may be less patient. Care must be taken to help friends and family to keep faith in the goals of the recovery after a relapse.

Getting Back to Alcohol Addiction Recovery

When a relapse does occur, it is important to get back to the business of recovery as soon as possible. Steps to take include:

  • Take stock of the new situation – Assess what has been lost or damaged
  • Put the relapse into perspective – Remember that others have relapsed and become sober again
  • Learn from the mistakes – The relapse may have exposed some vulnerabilities that can be addressed as recovery is restarted

Even though relapse is a loss, recovery does not have to start over from the beginning. A relapse proves how bad habits can linger for years and then be activated. But the positive habits learned in recovery do not disappear so easily either.

Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction and Alcoholism Recovery

Whether you are trying to prevent a relapse or trying to come back to recovery after one, our counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer questions and discuss treatment options. The helpline is toll free.