There are many patients who suffer from alcoholism and some of them continue to suffer from it despite repeated treatments. They are known as chronic relapsers. Their repeated attempts at rehabilitation with short-term benefit, if any, have led to coinage of the term, Revolving door syndrome. This can carry on for years and may lead to giving up on this treatment option altogether.  Sustained sobriety is the most important goal of rehabilitation, although any period of sobriety is welcome.



Failure at rehabilitation can be especially devastating because it could mean that they have just lost their last chance to recover. Summoning the motivation to quit again becomes twice as hard the next time around. It can be especially demoralizing for family and friends to see their loved one fail at rehabilitation. There are limited, if any, gains of short-term sobriety. It is a waste of time and resources. The chronic relapser needs to stay sober long enough that there is no longer any struggle of staying away from alcohol or drugs. Chronic relapsers usually don’t reach that point, so for them, the recovery is a continuous struggle. Every relapse is a huge financial and moral strain. It can lower self-esteem and self-efficacy and make the addiction worse next time around.

Summoning the motivation to quit again becomes twice as hard the next time around

There are many reasons why individuals relapse repeatedly:

  • Shaky commitment: The individual may have the desire to get and remain sober but there is a strong urge to keep going with their substance abuse.
  • Lack of honesty & dedication: If the individual is only stopping the substance abuse due to the pressure of or to please other people, it will not last. They will resume abusing as soon as they get a chance
  • Unrealistic goals: Unsuitable recovery programs with unrealistic goals can lead to failure as the individual struggle to keep pace and adjust.
  • Ignoring comorbid mental issues: If other concomitant mental health issues are not taken into account, they will cause difficulties in the path to recovery.
  • Exaggerated ego & self-esteem: The individual may be too arrogant or overconfident that they may find it difficult to take advice or follow rules.
  • Fear: It is possible that the individual may be scared of fully recovering from their addiction. The uncertainty of what comes next might be extremely anxiety-provoking.
  • Unprepared for the transition: Chronic relapsers may not be prepared well enough for the transition from rehab to home. This should be a part of the rehabilitation process.
  • Switching to alternate substances: The individual might be giving up one drug but switching to other substances of abuse. This will prevent them from making progress in recovery.

Preventing failure:

There are steps that can be taken to help individuals prevent failing rehabilitation:

  • Making attaining sobriety as number one priority.
  • Try different approaches if initial ones failed
  • Managing concomitant depression/anxiety issues.
  • Must avoid all mind-altering recreational drugs.
  • Should avoid HALT (hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness) as these are common relapse triggers.
  • Develop the courage to face and overcome any challenges that come during the recovery process and beyond.