Signs Of Relapse

“A single episode of drinking isn’t always considered a relapse. It’s often referred to as a slip. It’s possible to slip without relapsing.” – Chris Elkins, MA

For others, this may apply. But it didn’t apply to my Dad.

With my Dad, it was the same cycle over and over and over again. It was frustrating!

When my Dad wasn’t drinking he would sometimes drink non-alcoholic beer. It was as if his brain needed that taste. If he couldn’t drink, at least he could “trick” himself by taste. But eventually, it wouldn’t be enough. 

It always started off with a beer. Always.

“Dad! Really? A beer? You’ve done so well!”

“It’s only one beer, I can stop when I want.”

Frustration growing slowly inside me because I knew better. Here we go again. 

“But it always starts off with one beer! It’s never enough. You are not someone who can drink in moderation! As much as you may want to!”

“I’m fine Dan, I promise.” 

You’d never know how long it would be. But eventually, one beer always turned into multiple beers.

Many beers turned into hard alcohol. And once that happened there was NO stopping it. It wasn’t oh a glass here and there. No, it was the biggest bottles of alcohol he could buy. Sizes I had no idea they had even made!

It always turned into a binge. My Dad started to either 1) get very emotional or 2) very angry when this happened.

“I’m not drunk!” They lie. Lie, lie, lie, lie and lie some more. 

I think he truly believed he could fool everyone, but really he was fooling himself into believing he was okay.

There never was a point of stopping. He always ended up in detox. One of us bringing him to the ER, or cops would get called from different people to go to the house and take him in. You think he’d learn. But, that’s not how alcoholism works. 

We never knew how long he would stay sober. We never knew how long a drinking binge would last. 

He’d come out of detox and we’d beg him to go to rehab. Sometimes he’d go to AA, but he never did the work. Rarely did he go to rehab. Those cases were more forced upon him OR after detoxing sometimes he’d go right back to drinking. 

My whole life was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. He didn’t always have a relapse tell, or maybe I just didn’t always see it. It was a vicious debilitating cycle. 

When he would relapse, he would bring me down too. I was too scared to not get wrapped up in it. He was my Dad. Good or bad he was my FATHER. I didn’t know how to walk away even when deep down I know I should have.

I tried. Believe me, I tried. But there was a magnetic pull between the two of us. Later I would realize it’s just like being in an abusive relationship. And it was an abusive relationship in so many ways. 

And as I got older the more he drank the more it made me go numb. I was always left feeling destroyed. Hollow. Alone. Scared. And as he got older the relapses came more often than not. 

I want to say the longest my Dad ever stayed sober was maybe two years. And that was before the divorce. It was because he knew he had to stay sober or he would lose it all. 

He tried. But the demon that lay inside always won in the end. 

I used to believe we weren’t enough for him. But really it was HIM who believed HE wasn’t enough. And it always took him down, which was another thing I didn’t realize until later in life.

I did some research into relapse signs and triggers. I wanted to know more. Needed to know more to help me understand better. These are just a few. Every person is different, but these are good to know. 


-Talking about missing alcohol

-Behaving secretively 

-Becoming more isolated

-Hanging out with others who drink (And boy, did my Dad)

-Appearing anxious or depressed

-Missing meetings or therapy appointments (My Dad missed many.)

These warning signs don’t mean relapse is inevitable.” – Chris Elkins, MA


-Emotional: suppressing emotions, isolating, blaming others (Dad always blamed, it was never on him.)

-Mental: experiencing cravings, triggers, lying and planning to relapse

-Physical: Involves slipping and relapsing into an obsession with alcohol and compulsive desires to drink”


-Smelling alcohol

-Financial troubles

-Seeing alcohol

-Being with people who drink

-Loss of a loved one

-Being at a place that serves alcohol

-Experiencing emotional or physical abuse”

(All information used was written by Chris Elkins, MA. Click here to read more on relapse.)

One more thing I’d like to explain because I use this word a few times. “Dry Drunk”

“Dry Drunk is a slang term for someone who is sober but still displays risky behaviors associated with alcoholism, also has a heightened risk of relapse.”

Experiencing dry drunk can sometimes be even worse than the drinking. I found that my Dad was at his meanest when In this state.

Not everyone will relapse. I’ve heard amazing stories of people staying sober for twenty plus years! Unfortunately, my Dad did not fall under that category. But at the same time, I bet you the ones who stayed sober went to meetings, kept going to meetings, and did the 12 steps.

My Dad faked doing the work. You won’t stay sober if you don’t put in the effort. OR think that you can do it all alone. 

I think the more we know, the better we can understand. I wish I learned sooner. But maybe I can help someone else understand just a little bit more. 

Copyright © 2019 Danielle Chance Privacy Policy

All opinions and conclusions are my own. I am not a medical professional and I am not able to provide you with personalized medical recommendations. If you need help, there are many sources of information and places to get help.