How to Respond to Relapse Warning Signs and Behaviors

How to Respond to Relapse Warning Signs and Behaviors

Addiction treatment begins to address thoughts and behaviors that are present during active addiction. In a drug rehab, therapists educate addicts on a program of recovery, practice relapse prevention skills with addicts and help them begin to address underlying issues. Every addict should have a plan to respond to relapse warning signs. The process for continued addiction treatment includes evolving education, how to prepare for relapse triggers and how to respond to them.


A preliminary game plan, referred to in drug rehab as a discharge plan, is essential to decrease the risk of relapse when returning home. The anticipation of returning home after completing treatment may create a sense of excitement. This feeling, although positive, should also be considered a trigger and an addict should remain vigilant about the disease of addiction. The preparation for returning home should include:

  • A list of local support group information with first meeting attendance already planned.
  • Listening to suggestions by following through with treatment discharge plans.
  • A relapse prevention plan tailored to individual triggers, thoughts and behaviors.

Having a stable support network around you will help you be open and honest about specific warning signs and behaviors of relapse.


Ten specific relapse warning signs and behaviors, which are covered in Lakeview Health’ April 2012 webinar, are alleviated by healthy responses. All relapse warning signs should be discussed with your sponsor, therapist and peers in a recovery program.

Relapse Warning SignsHealthy Responses
H.A.L.T. – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, TiredHave a routine.
Negative ThinkingPositive affirmations and thought stopping techniques.
Increased ConflictConflict resolution and assertive communication.
Fear and AnxietyRecognition of irrational fears and anxiety management techniques.
Neglecting SpiritualityMake it part of your daily routine and speak with your sponsor.
Internalizing EmotionHealthy expression of needs and wants.
Stopping Asking for Help and Listening to SuggestionsReflect on how you ended up in addiction treatment and notice if you are repeating behaviors. Take suggestions.
IsolationGo to meetings or speak with your sponsor.
ComplacencyCheck your motivation for doing what you are doing.
Self-Destructive Behaviors and AttitudesPositive rewards and affirmations. Believe you are worth it.

When it comes to relapse thoughts and behaviors in addiction recovery, the first person you fool is yourself. Usually, there is a mental relapse before the physical one occurs. These healthy responses to relapse warning signs are suggestions to help decrease risk of relapse and readmission into addiction treatment.

Continued Education

After drug rehab, you should continue your addiction treatment with individual counseling in conjunction with working with your sponsor. Therapy is a way for you to begin looking at behaviors which may come up during your transition to returning home. If you have a dual diagnosis disorder, individual therapy may last longer to help you manage mood related symptoms after addiction treatment. Three points to remember are:

  1. Be prepared for triggers, both positive and negative
  2. Stay aware of thoughts, behaviors, and motivating factors
  3. Continue learning about addiction and keep the disease in remission