Life long recovery is possible.

Why do Addicts Relapse when Things are Good?

Understanding the challenges of addiction and the journey to recovery can often feel like navigating a labyrinth in the dark, especially if you or a loved one have experienced a relapse. You might feel lost, frustrated, and perhaps a bit scared. However, you’re not alone, and relapse doesn’t mean failure; it’s just a bend in your road to recovery. It’s essential to understand that relapse is a standard process. While it may seem counterintuitive, relapse often occurs when things seem to improve. But why do addicts relapse when things are good?

At Experience Recovery, we empower individuals in their journey towards lasting sobriety, fostering understanding and well-being in a supportive environment.

This comprehensive guide aims to shed light on the often misunderstood concept of addiction and relapse, its stages, how to prevent it, and more. Let’s delve deeper into this topic to help you or your loved one navigate the path to recovery more effectively.

Understanding Addiction and Relapse

To unravel why addicts relapse when things are good, it’s crucial first to understand the nature of addiction. Addiction is a complex condition, often seen as a brain disease that leads to compulsive substance abuse despite harmful consequences. It is characterized by an inability to stop using drugs or alcohol or engaging in behavior like gambling, even when it causes physical or psychological harm.

But here’s where it gets tricky. Addiction isn’t a straight path. It’s cyclical, often marked by periods of remission and relapse. This cyclic nature is one reason why viewing addiction as a chronic disease is so important, similar to how we view diseases like diabetes or hypertension. These conditions need ongoing care; setbacks don’t mean the treatment has failed.

Relapse rates among those recovering from addiction are similar to those in other chronic diseases. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40% to 60% of individuals in treatment for substance abuse disorders will relapse at some point. This figure isn’t meant to discourage but to underscore that relapse is a common, albeit challenging, aspect of recovery.

At Experience Recovery, we recognize this cyclic nature of addiction and have tailored our programs to offer a range of services that address the varied stages of recovery. From outpatient care to intensive residential programs, we provide comprehensive, evidence-based therapies to prevent relapse and maintain long-term recovery.

Why Do Addicts Experience Relapse When Things are Going Well?

Community therapy in a rehab center, where relapse prevention programs are available

We often assume that recovery should be straightforward and relapse should be off the table once things are going well. However, reality tends to be much more complex. Various factors can cause a person in recovery to relapse, even when their situation appears to be improving.

Let’s delve into some of these triggers:


Progress in recovery can sometimes be a more straight, upward trajectory. You may have hit a plateau and need to move forward or achieve new milestones. This feeling of stagnation can create frustration and disillusionment, potentially triggering a relapse.

We understand that continuous growth and personal development are integral to recovery. That’s why we create dynamic, personalized treatment plans that evolve with you, supporting progress at every stage.

Lack of Awareness

Another common pitfall on the road to recovery is a lack of self-awareness. Being in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and triggers can significantly affect how you navigate recovery. If you’re unaware of what might push you towards drug abuse, you may succumb to these triggers, even when things seem to be going well. Mindfulness and self-reflection, critical components of our therapeutic modalities, help cultivate this much-needed awareness.


Confidence in your ability to overcome addiction is crucial. However, becoming overconfident or complacent can blur the ongoing challenges of recovery. You might underestimate the power of triggers or overlook the importance of continuous self-care and support. Balancing self-confidence with a realistic understanding of the recovery process is vital in preventing relapse during ‘good times.’


Those behaviors or thought patterns keep you from doing what you want to do, achieving what you want to achieve. Recognizing and managing self-sabotaging tendencies, an essential part of our treatment approach can profoundly affect your recovery.


Physical and emotional withdrawals can remain challenging even when things are going well. These lingering withdrawal symptoms of your body adjusting to the absence of the substance can sometimes prompt a relapse.

At Experience Recovery, we’re equipped with the knowledge, tools, and techniques to help you navigate this critical aspect of recovery.

Mental Health Issues

Individuals battling addiction often also struggle with co-occurring mental health disorders, such as:

  • Stress: recovery can be stressful, and periods of high stress can potentially trigger a relapse. Managing stress through healthy coping mechanisms and therapeutic practices is a crucial part of our approach at Experience Recovery.
  • Anxiety: anxiety disorders are pretty common among those struggling with addiction. It can intensify cravings and make sobriety more challenging, increasing the risk of relapse.
  • Depression: It can trigger feelings of hopelessness and despair, which may drive an individual back to substance abuse. It’s essential to address and treat depression as part of a comprehensive recovery plan.
  • PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is another common co-occurring condition that can complicate recovery. Trauma can lead to substance use as a coping mechanism, making PTSD a potential trigger for relapse.

Addiction Triggers

A thorough understanding of addiction triggers can make a big difference in recovery. Triggers can broadly be categorized as social triggers, such as specific people or social situations, and environmental triggers, like particular locations or times of day. Identifying these triggers can help you navigate and manage them more effectively, reducing the risk of relapse. Learn more about the importance of identifying addiction triggers in our detailed guide.

Lack of Self-Care

Recovery isn’t just about abstaining from substance abuse—it’s also about taking care of your overall health. When physical, emotional, or mental health is neglected, the risk of relapse increases. A consistent self-care routine can improve well-being, bolster resilience, and sustain recovery.

Lack of Motivation

Staying motivated in recovery can be challenging, especially when faced with obstacles or setbacks. Motivation plays a significant role in maintaining sobriety, and a lack of it can lead to relapse. But it’s crucial to find sustainable sources of motivation—those that resonate deeply with you and your recovery goals.

Our team at Experience Recovery can help you explore and identify these motivators, providing you with additional tools to maintain long-term recovery.

What are the 3 Stages of an Addiction Relapse?

Therapist supporting patient in a consultation and helping her understand why addicts relapse when things are good

Addiction Relapse is not a singular event but a process that unfolds over time, often divided into three stages: the emotional, mental, and physical. Understanding these stages can equip you and your loved ones with the knowledge needed to prevent a full relapse and maintain the path of recovery.

Emotional Stage

The first stage can often catch you off guard. Feelings of anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and restlessness characterize it. You may not be thinking about using substances again. Still, your emotions may be setting the stage for a potential relapse.

At Experience Recovery, we stress the importance of recognizing these emotional signs and implementing self-care practices and emotional regulation strategies to prevent progression to the next stage.

Mental Stage

The mental stage of relapse is marked by a tug-of-war in your mind. Part of you wants to use it again, while the other part remembers why you decided to get sober. This inner battle can be exhausting and stressful, increasing the risk of progressing to the physical stage.

Techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, and stress management can be powerful tools to manage this stage. Our team at Experience Recovery is dedicated to helping you strengthen these skills.

Physical Stage

The physical stage of relapse is the act of returning to substance abuse. It’s crucial to remember that relapse can be dangerous—even deadly—especially if you consume the same amount as before you got sober. Your body’s tolerance to the substance has decreased during sobriety, making overdose a real risk.

Early intervention is critical to preventing a full-blown relapse. Reach out to your support system, or get in touch with us at Experience Recovery. Remember, relapse is not a failure but a signal that your treatment plan may need adjustments.

Myths and Truths About Relapse and Addiction Recovery

In addiction recovery, misinformation can be more than just confusing—it can potentially hinder progress and even deter individuals from seeking help. We believe in educating our clients and their loved ones to demystify addiction and provide clarity on this complex journey.

Let’s set the record straight and debunk some common myths about relapse and addiction:

1. Addicts cannot return to everyday life after recovery.

No. Recovery is a lifelong process, but it doesn’t mean life has to be less fulfilling. With proper treatment and support, individuals can reclaim their lives, make amends, and contribute positively to society.

2. A person must hit ‘rock bottom’ before they can get better.

No. Recovery can begin at any stage of addiction. The idea of ‘rock bottom’ can be dangerous, often leading individuals to suffer unnecessary pain and hardship. Early recovery can lead to better outcomes in treating substance use disorders.

3. If you relapse, it means your treatment has failed.

No. Relapse is a common part of the recovery process. Just as symptoms may recur in other chronic diseases like hypertension or diabetes, a relapse indicates that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted.

4. Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point in trying again.

Recovery is a journey, and not all treatments work the same for everyone. What didn’t work before may work now, or a different treatment approach may be more effective. Don’t let past experiences deter you from pursuing recovery.

5. People who relapse just aren’t ready to get sober.

Absolutely not. Readiness for change can fluctuate, and it’s common for individuals to have mixed feelings about giving up substances, even when they recognize they have a problem. Relapse doesn’t mean someone isn’t ready to get sober; it’s a regular and expected part of recovery.

By debunking these myths, we hope to foster understanding and empathy towards those battling addiction and their complex journey toward sobriety.

At Experience Recovery, we are committed to providing accurate information and effective treatment strategies to guide you or your loved one toward a successful recovery.

What To Do After a Relapse?

Front view of the Experience Recovery treatment center, where patients can engage in relapse prevention programs during recovery

Encountering a relapse can feel like a setback in recovery. However, remember that it doesn’t define your strength or commitment toward sobriety.

Here’s what you should do if you or a loved one relapses:

  • Seek Out Support: Connecting with people who understand your situation is crucial. Talk to a trustworthy friend, family member, or mental health professional about your experience. At Experience Recovery, our team of certified professionals is always here to lend a listening ear and guide you back on the path of recovery.
  • Participate in Support Groups: Joining support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous can provide comfort and perspective. Knowing you’re not alone in your struggles can be empowering, fostering a sense of belonging and shared understanding.
  • Create a Relapse Prevention Plan: If you haven’t already, work with your therapist or counselor to develop a comprehensive relapse prevention plan. This plan will help you identify potential triggers, plan appropriate responses, and take detailed steps if a relapse occurs. We provide personalized relapse prevention planning at Experience Recovery, ensuring you have practical strategies to maintain long-term sobriety.
  • Use It to Make You Stronger: A relapse can be an opportunity to learn and grow. Understand what led to the relapse, and use that knowledge to strengthen your coping mechanisms. Remember, recovery is a journey and not a destination. Each hurdle you overcome makes you stronger.

Experience Recovery is Here to Help if You Relapse

Info sign at the entrance of the Experience Recovery treatment center, with phone numbers, website, address, and opening hours.

Experiencing a relapse can often feel like a crushing defeat. In such moments, the key is not to lose hope but to take the necessary steps to get back on recovery.

One essential step is recognizing the importance of returning to treatment. At Experience Recovery, we understand that each individual’s journey is unique. That’s why, in the event of a relapse, we reassess your situation, identify any new or intensified triggers, and readjust your treatment plan accordingly.

Our team employs a variety of therapeutic modalities, including DBT, CBT, family programs, and holistic therapies. We’re equipped to handle any setbacks in your recovery, tailoring our approach to your specific needs and implementing necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.

We aim to help you get back on track and better prepare you for the road ahead and we are here to guide you through every step of your journey.

Call us now, and let’s begin this journey to healing together. You don’t have to face this alone. We’re here for you every step of the way.

Get Help Today!

If you or a loved one needs help getting sober, Experience Recovery can help. Our admissions line is open 24/7.

Get Help Today

If you or a loved one needs help getting sober, Experience Recovery can help. Our admissions line is open 24/7.

Our Proud Members

Certified by the State Department of Health Care Services

License: 300011EP | Exp: 5/31/2025

Find us on Social Media

©2022 Copyright Experience Recovery All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Privacy Practices

  • 3919 & 3921 W Hazard Ave Santa Ana, CA 92703