Who, what, where, when, why- there are questions to ask after a relapse. If you or a loved one have recently relapsed, investigating the 5 W’s isn’t an inquisition, but a search for knowledge to prevent relapse in the future.



People can be triggering for relapse. Hanging out with old friends, talking to an ex-romantic partner, talking to a past abuser- anyone can “inspire” a relapse. More importantly, the self can inspire a relapse. Sometimes in the face of drugs and alcohol, it’s less about other people than it is about internal pressure.

  • Who were you with?
  • Who were you thinking about?
  • Who did you feel you needed to be in that moment?
  • Who did you feel you didn’t want to be in that moment?
  • Who was encouraging you or discouraging you to relapse?



Activities, or lack of activities, can trigger the brain. Slacking on a recovery program, for example, can lead the brain to wonder about old patterns of behavior. Too much recovery without enough self-care can also lead to burnout which could trigger a craving to use.

  • What were you doing?
  • What were you thinking?
  • What have you been doing for self-care?
  • What was your recovery program like up until now?
  • What physical sensations can you recall before relapse?
  • What did you experience right after using?
  • What did you think might happen if you kept using?


Locations can cause a trigger to use. The brain takes note of every element which contributes to the formation of memory associations having to do with the pleasure caused by drugs and alcohol.

  • Where were you?
  • Where did you get the drugs or alcohol from?
  • Where was your phone to call a sponsor, family member, or friend?
  • Where have you been spending time before your relapse?


Cravings and discomfort tend to happen at night. Different times of day could be triggering for different reasons. Time is also of the essence. Recognizing a gap in recovery and asking for help can be important pieces of information for a relapse prevention plan.

  • When do you last remember thinking about sobriety?
  • When did you realize you didn’t want to continue using anymore?
  • When did you reach out for help?


There’s never a “good” “why” for relapse. Relapse happens. Simultaneously, relapse happens over time, through a process of triggering the brain to crave drugs and alcohol, as well as happens in a single moment. Asking other questions can lead you to formulate a general answer to why someone relapsed. Ultimately, they relapsed because they felt they needed to drink or use to change the way they felt.


Relapse can be prevented through post-treatment follow ups, aftercare, and sober monitoring. Hired Power provides compassionate services which bring recovery home after treatment. For more information on how we’re empowering families, call 1-800-910-9299 today.