Josh Chandler | August 20, 2018

The Role Stress Plays in Addiction Relapse

Though many people in recovery don’t realize it, stress plays a huge role in a drug or alcohol relapse. Take a look at this article to learn more about how stress can effect a relapsing addiction and what to do about it.

One of the biggest challenges after rehab is relapsing. This is because all of the triggers that caused you to use still exist. The challenge comes from having to face them again, sober.

It’s important to be able to recognize these triggers and learn to cope with the stresses in your life without masking them with your choice of substance. Facing life without your crutches will make sure you stay clean.

Let’s start with a few of the events that cause our stress.

Stress and Relapsing

Many people experiment with drugs and alcohol at a young age. Not everyone who tries them stays with them. It is how many of us discover how powerful they are. A few tokes or a few beers helps us relax.

As we age, we turn to the substances that make us relax when we are stressed. We think it’s helping and on the surface, it is. We forget about our problems, only to have to start all over the next day.

It’s important to recognize what causes our stress and find ways to deal with them in a healthy manner.


This is a big stressor for so many people. It is more so when you use drugs or alcohol to cope. It’s not uncommon for someone to come home and have a drink to relax.

If you struggle with the job or don’t like it, which is often most of us, it’s easy to use drugs or alcohol to mask the stress and try to forget. If you lost your job or can’t find work due to your addictions, it can be overwhelming.

The financial burden of a low paying or lack of a job all ties into the stress that comes with employment. It’s easier to get loaded and worry about it tomorrow. If you have a family or dependants, the stress can be too much to deal with.


Many marriages are pushed to the limit if one or both partners engage in substance abuse. There can be a lack of communication, fighting, and blame. If only one person is using, then there is an imbalance.

Much guilt and blame come with this, the burden of one person being responsible for everything. Whether it’s financial or taking care of the home or children, it’s difficult to keep a marriage together.


Our family often think they know what is best. It can feel like they are relentless in their constant criticism, nagging or needs. Whether it’s your immediate family or extended, there is often too much pressure to perform.

Peer Pressure

When you are sober, you need to avoid all your old drinking and drugging buddies. The pressure and desire to use again will be overwhelming. They will have a thousand reasons why you should join them.

One of the biggest mistakes addicts make is, “I can have just one”. There is no such thing. Just one is just one more and you will fall back into your old ways. Sober you need sober friends.


People cope with loneliness in different ways. It’s a struggle for the strongest willed, so don’t let it overtake you. You may have used to mask loneliness in the first place. Drugs and alcohol are your best friend. They are always there and they never say No.

“It is sometimes a little lonely to be surrounded everywhere by a happiness that is not your own.”

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942)

Getting high doesn’t make the loneliness go away, it enhances it.

Avoid Relapsing

While there are no guarantees, there are ways to avoid situations that tempt you to use. Cutting out stress from our lives is nearly impossible, but learning tools to cope helps.

Keep Your Contacts

If you have come through a rehab program, stay in touch with the support team. Whether you attend regular meetings, call your sponsor or join social functions, keep in touch.

These people have your back and will be able to talk to you in a language you understand. They have been there and they are on your side. It’s much easier to talk to someone who understands.


Start some type of exercise that will help burn off your stress. Running or cardio are great for stress and depression.

Try yoga and/or meditation to relax and free the demons in your mind. It’s a simple method that works. You can do it anywhere and you control it.

Joining a gym will help you develop and healthy routine and meet new, like-minded people. Plus, exercise will release endorphins that help cope with stress, help you sleep and increase your appetite.

Communicate Your Stress

Talk about what you are feeling. This can be a professional, a co-worker or your friends and family. Often, the very act of unloading a lot of crap you carry around will give you a great feeling of relief.

Get Better Friends

It’s vital you avoid all your using friends. In fact, once you are away from them, you will understand you were not a friend so much as a using buddy. Finding new interests will keep you occupied and the desires to use at a minimum.

Don’t Stress the Relapse

It’s not uncommon to relapse, so don’t beat yourself up. We can’t avoid stress in our lives, so try to cope in the best way you can. We all handle stress differently. Relapsing happens. It is not a failure.

Once you start to find alternative ways to cope with daily stresses, it will get easier. Letting go of drugs and alcohol is like letting go of our old friends. It is hard. Especially if they have been constant companions for many years.

Every day is a new chance to start over. Take advantage of all the resources available to you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need help or more information, please contact us here.

Addiction,Drug Addiction,Dual Diagnosis,Mental Health,Recovery,Relapse,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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