Relapse Explained

International Recovery Month takes place every September and aims to raise awareness of the recovery and treatment process. Recovery month celebrates the achievements of those in recovery. There are thousands of people whose lives have been transformed due to addiction treatment and their success often goes unnoticed in the wider community.

Recovery month aims to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong recovery community and to recognise the dedication of service providers and communities. This month we have decided to focus our blog on explaining relapse in the recovery process and the importance of continuing effort at the maintenance stage of recovery.


To begin to understand relapse, you must first understand addiction. The term addiction refers to the consistent need to engage in a particular activity, despite the harmful effects on the individual’s life. This pattern of behaviour can involve the misuse or overuse of a substance, often stemming from the need for a mood-altering experience. Signs that an individual is becoming dependent on the substance may include changes in personality, changes in daily routines, an unusual need for money and continued use of the substance despite its negative impacts.

The recovery process consists of five steps. The first being the pre-contemplation stage, this is where the individual is in denial regarding the negative effects of their addiction, and they are not ready to begin treatment. The next stage is the contemplation stage, where the individual is now ready to change their future. They are now aware of the negative effects of their addiction. In this stage it is crucial for the individual suffering from addiction to receive support and compassion from family and friends. The individual must be encouraged and guided towards the next stage of recovery.

During the preparation stage the individual begins to focus on their desire to be addiction free. At this point the individual has taken some small steps towards recovery. The action stage shows the individuals commitment to the change, where the individual has sought professional help and where change is apparent in many aspects of their life. Maintenance is the final stage of the recovery process; it is where the individual is working hard to prevent relapse by keeping up lifestyle changes. It is important for an individual in the maintenance stage to make a continuous effort to remain substance free.

A relapse can be defined as a deterioration in someone’s state following a period of improvement. In terms of addiction, relapse is the resumption of substance abuse after an attempt to stop or a period of abstinence. Following a relapse, the individual may re-enter the precontemplation stage. They may feel disappointed with multiple failed attempts at recovery. Many individuals feel that recovery just in not possible, however the truth is that recovery is always possible for everyone. Relapse highlights the importance of continued investment in the recovery process even when an individual may seem “recovered”. The recovery process is a five step process, it is not a cycle.


It is important for an individual to acknowledge their triggers and to have a plan in place when faced with cravings. An individual suffering from addiction should understand the common causes of relapse to be better equipped to maintain their recovery. When the individual begins to experience any of these causes of relapse they should acknowledge the feeling, distract themselves and follow the plan that they have put in place to overcome triggers.

Some common causes of relapse include:

  • Withdrawal: post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from 6 to 18 months. An individual suffering from addiction can experience varying levels of withdrawal symptoms when they stop using their substance. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and there may be temptation to start using the substance again to ease these symptoms.
  • Wellbeing: feelings of stress, depression and anxiety can be unsettling and without sufficient treatment may cause the individual to crave the release of dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone. If an individual is struggling to manage their emotions, resorting back to substance abuse can become a coping mechanism.
  • Friends and family: surrounding yourself with supportive and considerate individuals is vital to avoid relapse. If you are surrounded by individuals in a similar situation to yourself before you entered treatment this can trigger a relapse. Initially it may be difficult to be surrounded by the substance that you are struggling with or to be surrounded by individuals who have a negative opinion of treatment and recovery.
  • Environment: certain environments can become extremely difficult for individuals in recovery. Having to go to a bar, casino, club or any place that you would have previously associated with substance abuse can become a trigger.
  • Poor self-care: a lack of sleep and poor nutrition can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. These are known as internal triggers, which can evoke cravings for the addictive substance.
  • Boredom and isolation: too much down time can cause an individual to revert to spending their free time using the addictive substance. Some individuals feel uncomfortable when left alone with their thoughts and emotions and addictive substances may serve as a distraction to take the mind off of more pressing issues.


At Tabor Group, we realise the support needed by clients in the early months of recovery after treatment is crucial to establishing an effective recovery from addiction. Our Continuing Care Programme is an integral part of the care delivered by Tabor Group to the client following completion of their residential treatment.

When in early recovery, clients will face many struggles that can hinder their progress therefore reviewing the care plan with the Continuing Care Coordinator is vital to assist and steer the client towards the recovery process. Tabor Group offers Continuing Care at various venues in the city and county. Our extensive network of continuing care groups, including relapse support programmes and a women’s programme, are designed to give effective reinforcements for clients to be able to maintain their recovery.


Tabor Group provides residential & community-based addiction treatment programmes to men and woman over 18 years of age, who are struggling with addiction to alcohol, drugs, and gambling.

If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, get help today. We can help you recover in a healthy, friendly environment and beat your addiction. Do not hesitate to contact one of our counsellors today for information by calling +353 (21) 488 7710 for Cork or +353 (1) 639 2962 for Dublin, or alternatively you can email us at info@taborgroup.ie. We can help you.