Staying sober is easy when you know the warning signs of relapse.    

Getting sober can be relatively easy for some, it’s staying sober that most people find tricky. 

Oftentimes, when you’re struggling with addiction, you’ve tried to quit a number of times — if not many times — in the past. 

But after a few days, weeks, months or years, something happens. 

Maybe it’s something big, like a death or a divorce, that prompts a relapse. 

Maybe it’s something small, like feeling irritated about a conversation with a family member or co-worker. 

Maybe you can’t even point to the reason for your relapse — sometimes it just happens and it feels like there’s nothing you can do about it.  

Good news: There actually is something you can do about it! 

Read on to learn the essential relapse prevention skill of identifying the warning signs of relapse.

Preventing Relapse Starts With Identifying the Warning Signs 

Learn what your relapse warning signs are and remember the common ones most people experience, too.

Relapse is a very late sign that something isn’t working in your recovery plan. 

Despite the fact that it sometimes feels random, relapse doesn’t actually happen randomly. We know a lot about predicting and preventing relapse. 

Warning signs for relapse include: 

  • Letting yourself get hungry, angry, tired or lonely on a regular basis 
  • Not following the treatment plan you and your care team designed 
  • Skipping calls with your sponsor, therapist or other support person
  • Skipping support group meetings, counseling appointments and/or spiritual activities 
  • Not taking your medication 
  • Hanging out with people who you used to use with 
  • Exposing yourself to high stress situations without an after-care plan 
  • Trying to “white knuckle” through cravings 
  • Dreaming about using
  • Feeling preoccupied with thoughts of using 

Remember, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Everyone has warning signs that are unique to them. If you’ve relapsed before, try to identify the warning signs you experienced before it happened so that you can spot them when you experience them again in the future. 

It’s Normal to Experience Relapse Warning Signs from Time to Time

Relapse is a part of the disease of addiction.

So, you’ve identified some relapse warning signs and you’re worried you’re going to relapse. 


This demonstrates some great self-awareness and a good commitment to recovery. 

Know this: Relapse is a part of the disease of addiction

Even with great treatment and a strict adherence to your treatment plan, you will experience cravings from time to time. 

That’s normal. What you’re experiencing is normal. Many, many people have experienced this before and they’ve gotten through it — without relapsing. 

If you did nothing about it when you identified the warning signs, you probably would relapse. But, since you’ve identified the signs, you’ve empowered yourself to do something about relapse before it starts! Good work.

Here’s What to Do If You’re Experiencing Relapse Warning Signs 

Make a plan for how you will handle relapse warning signs before they start.

First, take your warning signs very seriously. Do NOT ignore them or try to “push through” them alone. 

As soon as you identify any relapse warning signs, share them immediately with a trusted sponsor, doctor, counselor or spiritual leader. 

If the go-to contact people you’ve listed on your treatment plan aren’t up-to-date or there’s some reason you don’t want to contact them (or if you’ve never completed a proper treatment plan) call a hotline for people experiencing relapse warning signs. 

Calls to these centers are answered by trained and caring individuals who oftentimes have been through similar situations. 

If you’ve never called before, don’t be shy. They’ve heard it ALL and they fully expect to speak with angry, upset or sad people. You can call just as you are. 

Here’s some great local support resources we recommend: 

Don't hesitate to reach out to these support lines. We always recommend these numbers to our patients.

Suicide Lifeline: 800-273-8255

Alcohol and Drug Helpline: 800-923-4357

Portland Area Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous: 503-223-8569 (24 hour hotline)

Portland Narcotics Anonymous: 503-345-9839

Military Helpline: 888-457-48338 (great for vets or military families)

Senior Loneliness Line: 800-282-7035

Racial Equity Support Line: 503-575-3764 (100% staffed by people with lived experience of racism)

We’re Here to Help 

If you’re looking for addiction treatment in Portland, OR, Shanti Recovery and Wellness is an ideal place to begin or continue your recovery journey. 

Everyday we help people just like you reclaim their lives from the control of addiction. 

Using the most cutting edge evidence-based treatments available for addiction, we customize your treatment plan to suit your individual needs. 

Your recovery is supported by a tight knit team of experts in addiction medicine, psychology and nutrition. 

We’re here to help you succeed. 

Give us a call at (503) 296-5820 to get started today.