The recovery journey from addiction is often full of ups and downs, as recovery can be a difficult process to navigate and maintain. As sobriety is an ongoing process, it is not uncommon for individuals to relapse, even when life appears to be going well for them sober.

Understanding why addicts relapse when things are good requires an understanding of the complex nature of addiction, common relapse triggers, and the psychological and emotional factors that can cause addicts to relapse.

In this article, we will explore the reasons why addicts relapse when things are good and shed light on the challenges individuals face in maintaining sobriety during periods of sobriety and good health.


Common Reasons Why Addicts Relapse

Relapse is a common challenge for individuals in recovery from addiction. Several factors can contribute to why addicts relapse, and these reasons may vary from person to person.

Some of the most common reasons why addicts relapse include:

Expose to Triggers and Cravings

One of the most common reasons for drug or alcohol relapse is the intense cravings and triggers that occur during recovery. There are a number of relapse triggers that can cause a person to relapse, including stress, emotions, or even social situations that can trigger the desire to use substances again, such as Christmas and weddings.

Cravings for alcohol or drugs are something that will always exist for a former addict, so continuing relapse prevention techniques is required to avoid relapse.

Stress and Emotional Distress

High levels of stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotional struggles can lead individuals to turn to substances such as drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. When facing challenging life events, some may revert to alcohol or drug use to deal with emotions, even if life is generally good.

Something as small as a hard day can result in a relapse, which is why knowing how to manage relapse triggers is the best way to stay sober.

Social Pressure

Peer pressure and social influences can be powerful triggers for relapse. Being around friends or acquaintances who use drugs or alcohol can make it difficult to resist the temptation to join in, no matter how long a person has been in recovery.

Lack of a Support System

A strong support system is crucial in maintaining recovery. When individuals feel isolated or unsupported, they may return to substance use to cope with loneliness. Support groups offer former addicts a space to talk about their feelings and worries, making the risk of relapse smaller.


A lack of fulfilling activities or socialisation can lead to boredom, which can trigger the desire to use substances for something to do. Boredom is a surprisingly common relapse trigger for addicts.

Lack of Coping Skills

Many addicts turn to substances as a way to cope with life’s challenges. Without alternative coping mechanisms and life skills, they may struggle to deal with stress, frustration, or pain without resorting to substances.

Mental Health Issues

Co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD, can increase the risk of relapse. Untreated or undertreated mental health conditions can drive individuals back to substance use as a form of self-medication.

As mental health problems are commonly masked, it may seem like an addict has relapsed when things are good. However, mental health battles are often experienced in private, so a person in recovery may be struggling more than you know.

Another relapse trigger is trauma. Unresolved trauma from the past can resurface during recovery, making it challenging to maintain sobriety.


Signs of Addiction Relapse

There are a number of signs to look out for to see if a loved one has relapsed into alcohol or drugs. Although it may be hard to understand why a person relapsed if their life and sobriety seemed good, this does not mean that it hasn’t happened.

Common signs of relapse include:

  • Withdrawn behaviour
  • Suddenly secretive behaviour
  • Frequent texts/phone calls
  • Weight changes – loss or gain
  • Regular and unexpected mood swings
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or social events
  • Higher anxiety than typical
  • Aggression
  • Poor work and social performance

If a person shows signs of relapse, it is important not to show how upset you may be feeling as this can feed into guilt which can then worsen substance abuse. The best thing to do is to stage an intervention or speak to the person privately about how they are feeling and how you can help.

Relapses are common, but acting quickly before a tolerance builds to alcohol or drugs again is the best way to improve the chances of recovery.

Reach out to professionals if a loved one is showing signs of a relapse.


Misconceptions About Addiction Relapse

Understanding common reasons for relapse can help individuals in recovery and their support systems be better prepared to identify and address potential triggers. It can be confusing for families and friends to witness an addict relapse when things are good, but addiction is a complex disease which requires constant work to avoid relapse.

It is a myth that addiction and relapse are a choice, as drug and alcohol addiction is a physical and psychological disease that is not curable. Instead of a cure for addiction, it takes constant maintenance and vigilance to avoid relapses and that is why people relapse even when things seem good.

Building a support system for a loved one is the best way to help them if a relapse has occurred.


How to Help An Addict Who Has Relapsed

Offering constant support, understanding and advice to a former addict is the best way to help them. If a relapse has occurred, reach out to professionals such as ourselves to help get them back on the right track.

There are also local support services available such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to help people in recovery.

Do not underestimate the importance of ongoing therapy, support groups, and developing healthy coping strategies to maintain long-term sobriety successfully. Even if a relapse has occurred, this does not equal an end to the recovery journey. Every person is capable of living a happy, sober life – reach out today for advice and support on 0800 880 7596.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: December 21, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.