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Alcoholism and the Problem of Alcohol Relapse

Posted in Alcoholism

Alcoholism is one of the most dreadful conditions, and one of the hardest to overcome. Unfortunately, many alcoholics who do become sober for a period of time end up relapsing for one reason or another. One of the most common reasons for alcohol relapse is the inability to resist the powerful temptation to drink.

Most experts believe that alcohol relapse often occurs due to influence by others who abuse alcohol as well. After all, people abuse alcohol for a variety of reasons. They may believe that alcohol – or rather the emotional numbness it temporarily provides – is essential for coping with a recent job loss, depression or anxiety, a broken marriage, the inability to find a job, and a whole host of other life problems. For others, what starts off a way to relax, pass time, or take their time off of something soon becomes a habit – a habit that eventually takes over their life.

Why People Start Drinking – and Why They Relapse

There are many things that can trigger the downward spiral into alcoholism for those who are vulnerable to addiction. A significant personal failure can trigger the beginning of an alcohol addiction. A traumatic event or a history of physical or sexual abuse is also a common trigger. Anything that makes a person susceptible to self-medicating with alcohol or other substances can be a major contributing factor. Three of the most common reasons include:

  • Pressure is one of the most frequently quoted reasons for alcohol abuse. People who have a highly demanding work schedule with tight deadlines may turn to alcohol as a means of relief. What happens is that, as time goes on, they become to rely on it as a way to cope. In time, they feel that they can’t cope or function without it.
  • Relationship failure – such as a breakup or divorce, or even the end of a close friendship – is another common reason why people start abusing alcohol. They start drinking in order to numb the pain and forget the loss; in time, it becomes a habit that is difficult to break. When they don’t drink, the painful feelings come flooding back, leading them to drink again in order to cope.
  • Insomnia is another factor that has led many vulnerable individuals down the path of alcoholism. Sleep is so essential to being able to perform well and get through each day. Those who can’t turn to alcohol to help them fall asleep – even though it backfires in the long run. What starts as a temporary thing turns into a serious habit.

When it comes to reasons for alcohol relapse, they are often the same as listed above. The alcoholic becomes sober, but when faced with significant pressure or stress, a relationship failure or other serious loss, or a troubling condition like insomnia, the urge to drink in order to cope often wins – and alcohol relapse is the unfortunately result.

More than just a Habit

Most people who become alcoholics start drinking innocently enough – often for the reasons listed above. But, for those prone to addiction, their use turns into a habit and ultimately into a problem over which they have no control. In other words, the urge to drink controls them. Many try to quit on their own, but doing so is difficult. Despite repeated attempts to quit the end result is often alcohol relapse – no matter how sincere their intentions.

Alcohol abuse can start at an early age – sometimes as early as 12 years old or even younger, although starting in adolescence is more typical. When someone starts at an early age, the ability to stop at some point can be especially difficult. The longer the abuse continues, the harder it usually is to get sober.

Letting go of any habit is difficult after a period of time. But with alcoholism, it’s far more than just a habit. Your body has become dependent on the substance. The cravings are intense, and it takes more and more alcohol to get the desired effects.

Alcoholics also rely on alcohol to function normally. The fear of being unable to carry on with their daily routine without it is very real. Many alcoholics (if they are willing to admit it) claim to be able to do their daily activities because of the alcohol. But this is an illusion, as in time, it ends up destroying them if they don’t become sober at some point.

Other Reasons for Alcohol Relapse

When people do go through all the hard work of becoming sober, they are still vulnerable to relapse if they aren’t very careful. In addition to many of the reasons listed above, following are some other common reasons for relapse.

  • Getting together with old “drinking buddies”. This is a very common reason for alcohol relapse. Often, it starts out innocent enough – you run into an old drinking buddy and decide to grab a bite to eat or have a non-alcoholic drink with him. Unfortunately, the next thing you know your buddy coaxes you into having “just one – for old time’s sake”, and an unexpected alcohol relapse occurs.
  • Old habits connected with drinking. If you engage in any former behaviors or habits that were closely associated with drinking, alcohol relapse is likely to occur. You may not even realize it at first, but that connection can be a powerful reminder of how much you enjoyed the taste of your favorite drink, or the pleasant feelings it produced.
  • Too much time on your hands. Alcohol relapse often occurs if you’ve got too much idle time. The lack of something productive or purposeful to occupy your time can leave you very vulnerable to alcohol relapse. After all, in the past when you were bored or idle, you likely had a drink (and probably several) to fill the time.

Staying Sober and Preventing Alcohol Relapse

The tried and true mechanism behind getting sober and preventing relapse is simple (but definitely not easy) – and that is to fight the fight with everything you’ve got. There really is no other way. If sobriety is truly your goal, you must take the necessary steps to get there. Once you’ve gone through alcohol rehab, the following two things are essential to avoid alcohol relapse:

  • Stay away from alcohol – and from those who are drinking alcohol. Again, if you go back to spending time with friends who are actively drinking, your chances of avoiding a relapse are greatly diminished. You don’t want to trigger that overwhelming temptation to drink.
  • Find new passions (or revive old ones) and activities to fill your time and keep you motivated. As mentioned earlier, idle time is a dangerous thing for an alcoholic in recovery. Take up an activity that you enjoy – something that stimulates your mind. This could be taking a class, writing a book, learning to play golf, or doing fulfilling volunteer work. By engaging in enjoyable activities that keep you busy, you’ll be much more likely to avoid an alcohol relapse.

Recovery from alcoholism and preventing alcohol relapse is possible. It takes a lot of courage and determination, but the effort is well worth it.