Oct 24, 2018 | By Tim Stoddart

7 Myths About Relapse We’re Here To Smash

Relapse Prevention

Separating fact from fiction can be difficult to determine, especially for those new to recovery. Some of these myths we hear in 12-step rooms, friends, in therapy groups, and sometimes we hear these on the internet – and they can really throw us for a loop. While the risk of relapse is significant, studies show that the addiction relapse rate hovers between 40 and 60 percent.

While you’ve probably heard many stories of others relapsing, you may have fears of relapse yourself. However, no matter what stage of recovery you’re at, it is important to remember that just because someone else has relapsed, doesn’t mean you will too.

For successful recovery, it’s important to separate the war stories and relapse rants you may have heard to determine the truth from the false. We’ve sifted through common misconceptions about relapse and are here to break them down for you.

Relapse Can Happen Out Of Nowhere

Let’s slow the steam down on this myth train. Many will tell you that relapse is a process and looking back, notice warning signs way before they actually put a drink or a drug into their body. The steps to a relapse can be compiled from changes in attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that gradually lead to the final step the actual relapse. In fact, some warning signs to relapse can be common for a lot of people. Check out some of them, here.

Relapse Is A Part Of Recovery

It’s clear what’s meant when someone says that relapse is part of recovery, but the message being communicated also has the potential to do harm. It might be more accurate to say that relapse can be an unfortunate part of the recovery process. Otherwise, the seemingly innocuous expression could create confusion, uncertainty, and even be considered encouragement for addicts to make excuses for their relapses. Relapse does NOT have to be apart of recovery.

Telling someone that relapse is part of recovery could convey compassion if the person has just relapsed and feels like they’ve failed at their recovery altogether. In these cases, the popular saying would encourage them to forgive themselves and quickly continue with their recovery process. However, when this expression is being advocated like propaganda, it could promote an offhand attitude toward relapse, its significance and its consequences.

Relapse Means Treatment Didn’t Work

Merriam Webster defines the word “relapse” as: a recurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement. 

Now, let’s compare a drug and alcohol relapse to a relapse in diabetes – both diseases:

If a person with diabetes continues to experience high blood sugar with their treatment regimen, they don’t give up and decide their situation is hopeless. Instead, they recognize that their treatment needs to be adjusted. The same philosophy can be applied to treatment for substance abuse disorder, with a relapse indicating that the current strategy needs to be modified.

Just because someone has a relapse, doesn’t mean that treatment failed them – it just means that you may have to alter and adjust your program. And, according to the definition of the word, we already had a “period of improvement.”

Relapse Is A Sign Of Failure

There are many people who equate relapse as a sign of failure, whether it be a personal failure, a failure of loved ones, or their support system. However, this idea is anything but accurate. Remember, studies show that the addiction relapse rate hovers between 40 and 60 percent. While relapse doesn’t happen to everyone, it is common, and it’s equally important to know that if relapse happens to you, you are not alone. However, making the right changes to your recovery strategy can help the chances of preventing relapse again the future. 

Someone Who Relapses Hasn’t Hit “Bottom” Yet


What defines a “bottom” anyway? This thinking can get us into a dangerous mind-frame that some are not worthy of treatment. A relapse is a relapse, and anybody can slip up, however you or anybody else does not owe any particular amount of pain and suffering before you’re worthy of recovery.

The most important part of a relapse is the response to it. If relapse does occur, make sure there are good people holding you accountable and are there to help. If you have built a good support structure, people will notice changes in your behavior. If you’ve prepared them for all possibilities, they will be able to intervene and help.

We Shouldn’t Talk About Relapse


Talking about relapse won’t make it come about anymore than talking about a new pair of shoes will make them magically appear in your closet. How will you noticed the warning signs if you don’t even know what they are? We must talk about relapse and talk about it often Tell the people in your life what a relapse might look like and get them in your corner. Tune into your mental state and be conscious of your behavior so that you’re able to recognize the signs of relapse.

If you or a loved one are in the midst of a relapse and looking for help, Sober Nation’s 24/7 toll-free hotline is available. Call now at: 866-666-5701

Looking for something else? Check out our 14 Day Course on Relapse Prevention.

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