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People who successfully complete alcohol or drug addiction rehab have good reason to feel satisfied with their accomplishment. Completing rehab is no easy task, and many people completely avoid it all together because of its difficulty. However, this is also a time of great uncertainty. Fewer than half of the people who complete a long-term addiction rehab will maintain sobriety for a year. Part of this has to do with the chronic nature of addiction, but another part has to do with people failing to realize the signs of a relapse or avoid possible addiction relapse triggers.

“It’s important to remain humble during your recovery and realize that addiction is never fully cured.”

1. H.A.L.T. (Hunger, Anger, Lonely and Tired): This is a popular acronym within the addiction rehab community and is important to keep in mind to prevent a relapse. If you feel hunger, anger, loneliness or tiredness for too long, you become more and more susceptible to a relapse. It is critical to recognize when you are feeling one of these physical or emotional conditions and halt to immediately correct it.[1]

2. Stress: Unfortunately, there’s no tried and true way to completely avoid stress in one’s life. But stress is an undeniable relapse trigger.[2] If you’re dealing with severe stress at work or at home, you must do everything in your power to reverse it or it will continue to weigh on you and jeopardize your recovery.

3. Romantic Relationships: Although it is often ignored, a common suggestion for people just completing rehab is to avoid romantic relationships for the first year. There are multiple reasons for this. First, there’s a strong chance that any romantic relationship may replace the void left by substance abuse, which is not a recipe for long-term success for your sobriety or the relationship. Another potential problem is that a breakup or argument could lead a person back to substance abuse as a means of coping with ensuing depression and/or anger.

4. Gatherings and Celebrations: Alcohol consumption and celebrations go hand in hand in America. You’d be hard-pressed to go to a holiday party, Super Bowl party or even a summer BBQ without being exposed to alcohol. While you shouldn’t lock yourself away and throw away the key, you should be sure to plan accordingly for these types of events.

5. Overconfidence: At a certain point during recovery, it’s quite common for a person to feel like they’ve defeated addiction. It’s been months since he had a drink and he feels in complete control. However, this is where complacency may set in and a person may then begin to ignore any relapse prevention plans. It’s important to remain humble during your recovery and realize that addiction is never fully cured.

illustration showing two figures and a heart symbol for romance as a possible addiction relapse trigger

6. Boredom: One reason why it is suggested that people in recovery find new hobbies is because the initial period of sobriety can feel boring. In many cases, you’ve stopped hanging out with certain people, stopped hanging out at certain places and now have lots of time to fill on a daily and weekly basis. If you can’t find something to do with your time, boredom will set in and you will become more vulnerable to a relapse.

7. Mental or Physical Illness: Symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or any other mental illness can easily trigger a relapse. This is why it’s important to receive treatment for any mental health difficulties concurrently with addiction rehab. Likewise, physical illness can also be a relapse trigger because of the stress it puts on the body. Additionally, any medicine prescribed for mental or physical illness may be addictive and lead to long-term problems in your recovery.

photo of a man thinking about taking a painkiller pill

8. Old Hangouts and Old Friends: One of the more difficult things for people in recovery to do is separate themselves completely from their pre-rehab lives. Finding new people to spend time with and new places to visit is not easy. However, failing to make these types of lifestyle changes will jeopardize your sobriety.

9. Reminiscing About the “Good Old Days”: If you start having positive, nostalgic memories of your days of abusing drugs or alcohol, you are heading down the wrong path. It’s important to remember all the damage substance abuse caused in your life and not focus on the fleeting moments of “fun” you had during this destructive phase.

10. The “Just One” Justification: You can be certain that your addiction recovery has gone off track if you start telling yourself you can have “just one drink” or “just one hit of drugs.” This is the beginning of a slippery slope. Don’t assume that you can just turn your commitment to sobriety off and on so easily.

No addiction recovery is completely smooth sailing. You will experience ups and downs, temptations, difficult situations and at times feel overwhelmed. The important thing is to be aware of your own thoughts and feelings, learn about relapse prevention and continue to make sobriety your top priority.

Addiction is a disease that damages every part of a person’s life and requires a collective effort to overcome. The addiction care experts at Behavioral Wellness & Recovery are committed to helping their patients achieve and maintain sobriety. If you’re ready to begin fighting back against addiction, we’re ready to help.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery, located in West Chester, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia & Lancaster, PA and Wilmington, DE), provides this page as a forum for general sharing of information. For more specific information relating to drug addiction, alcoholism and mental health or dual-diagnosis disorders, or to inquire further about our residential treatment programs for men and women, please contact BWR 24/7 at: (800) 683-4457.

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