• Scott McClure

External Relapse Risk Factors: Situations That Put Your Recovery in Harms Way

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), at least 40 to 60 percent of people in recovery experience some type of slip or a relapse.

Certain social, emotional and environmental situations can trigger the want or need of someone in early recovery to pick up and use drugs and/or alcohol. Some external factors remind them of experiences that their brain has associated with substance use, or can trigger intense emotional feelings that have been numbed out in active addiction and this can lead to a relapse in not only someone in early recovery but someone with time in recovery.

Relapse prevention is possible if you’re aware of the triggers, risk factors and warning signs that put your recovery at risk, so that you can best deal with them or avoid them if possible.

Here are some of the most common external relapse risk factors you need to watch out for:


The people you surround yourself with can either aid your recovery process or take it completely off track. It’s crucial to choose your company wisely because in many cases, people you’re close to play a key role in triggering a relapse.

For instance, negative interactions with your friends and family members can cause high levels of stress, making you want to change how you feel or escape the reality of the situation.  With very limited coping skills in early recovery, it is vital that you are aware of the reaction you get when you are around certain people and to limit your contact with them as much as possible. Choose to be around those people who know what you’re going through and respect that by not using in front of you or offering you anything to drink or use.


It only takes a blink of an eye for a place to trigger old memories of drinking and using; when it was good and bad.  Both good memories and bad ones can be dangerous to your recovery, especially if you start obsessing about them.

For a person in recovery or even for an individual who has abstained from substance use for a long time, visiting old places, where they used to drink, buy drugs or hang out with using drugs play a major role in leading to relapse.

In addition, places like clubs, concerts, bars etc where you might encounter people drinking or using drugs can be dangerous and you should have a game plan when attending these events.  It is smart to limit your exposure to such events in early recovery but if you do go make sure that you go with at least one other sober person and have a preplanned exit or escape plan if things begin to get uncomfortable.


A person in recovery needs to be fully aware of their surroundings because the smallest of things can trigger their cravings. For instance, drug-related objects are major relapse risk factors. An empty bottle of pills or other paraphernalia can lead to relapse.


Dealing with unexpected scenarios, meeting new people, going to family gatherings and holidays among other situations can lead to increased stress, anxiety and burden which can be very dangerous for a former addict. And the trickiest events are celebrations where social drinking is involved. For successfully recovering from addiction, it’s important to learn how to navigate certain circumstances which can hinder your progress.

Sometimes it helps to look into a sober living facility and take the time and space you need to learn, practice and begin to implement healthy coping skills into your day to day life.

If you’re looking for a transitional sober living in Houston, contact us today!




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