How to Prevent Relapse


One way to prevent relapse is to resolve feelings of guilt in recovery. It is important to learn how best to deal with setbacks which can send a person into relapse. Explore ways to deal more effectively with setbacks in recovery and how it can help prevent relapse.


Relapse vs. Setbacks

Relapse is often seen as the opposite of recovery. More subtle mistakes, obstacles and problems can arise along the path of recovery, particularly early on in the process. It is helpful to consider a more inclusive approach to considering relapse: setbacks. People may regress towards negative behaviors which, in small doses, can be destructive but are not considered relapse.


Managing Setbacks

When referencing setbacks as periods of digression, the focus becomes narrowed to the complex array of daily ups and downs most people experience when overcoming substance abuse issues. A few examples of setbacks may include:

  • Staying drug free for a period of time following treatment only to slip up and try drugs or alcohol. Realizing the mistake, an individual may discuss it with a confidante, counselor or sober companion.
  • Life circumstances shift (relationship ends, job loss, etc) and mental health begins to suffer. A person’s thoughts turn towards using drugs or alcohol but do not lead to action.
  • Slipping up and using but returning to sober living immediately to amend the mistake rather than continue down the rabbit hole


Not every situation is considered a ‘lapse backwards’ to square one. If the person involved is willing to discuss the issues and get back on track, it is important to be gentle with oneself when dealing with recovery issues.


Core Principles for Recovery

The following principles can help an individual cope and understand setbacks as they occur:

  • Be honest. Determine whether the setback was a mistake or lack of readiness to change. The real reason is often, after a period of progress, the person loses motivation. As long as more motivation is sought to stay sober, there is little risk of true relapse.
  • Do not give up. To be successful in recovery requires the individual to look ahead, not back, at mistakes. Use setbacks as a constructive learning tool.
  • Let go of discouragement. Power and strength go out the window when a person becomes discouraged. Crush it and move towards hope and courage to triumph over the setbacks towards positive change.
  • Recognize setbacks happen. Accept this fact and move on. A step back is two steps forward. A person sincere in the desire for change makes an honest mistake and finds relief in moving forward.
  • Setbacks are about conditions, events and internal factors. Things happen, but continue to grow stronger to move beyond circumstances towards a better life.


Life continues to throw things at people in recovery, as it does everyone in life. Continue to abstain from overly negative thinking and remain positive to keep on the track to long term sobriety.


Feeling discouraged? Let us help lift you up. We provide resources and tools to get and remain sober. If you or a loved one have experienced setbacks on the journey to recovery, we are here to help get you back on the road again.