The term "flare up periods" or "flare ups" refer to definite time periods during which the recovering alcoholic/addict experiences an increased amount of tension and anxiety. Should he return to the use of alcohol or drugs, it will most likely be during one of these flare up periods. It is important, therefore, that the recovering alcoholic/addict, his family, his friends, his employer and anyone else who may play an important role during these periods become aware of how to recognize the onset of a flare up period and what to do when one occurs.

Flare ups occur at predictable intervals: five to six days, four to five weeks, eight to ten weeks, thirteen weeks, six months, nine months, and eleven to thirteen months after the last use of alcohol/drugs.

Factors in recognizing the onset of a flare up include feelings of irritability, moodiness, boredom, restlessness and difficulty in eating and sleeping. These emotional states grow in intensity and come to a peak which lasts up to three days. During these three days, the recovering alcoholic/ addict may be extremely depressed and irritable. He may feel all is hopeless, that nothing can go right and display outbursts of anger for almost no reason or because of something which would ordinarily be considered insignificant. There are also some physical signs indicating that he is approaching a danger zone. He may develop aches and pains, he may perspire more than ordinary and he may have headaches.There also may be behavior changes. These changes are sometimes so slight that they would be passed off without undue attention unless one is watching for them. Uncharacteristic juvenile behavior, unreasonable giggling and joy, expressions of weariness, restlessness or boredom, and a sudden concern about his health, job, family, loneliness, etc. are examples of such behavior changes.


  1. The first step in dealing with a flare up is to expect them and watch for the signs.
  2. When you suspect that you are entering a flare up period, seek help from someone who will understand what you are going through, your counselor or therapist, your spouse, a fellow group member, AA, CA or a good friend (who won’t offer you a drink or drug) are possible sources of help. Sometimes just calling someone to talk to , going for a drive or working on a hobby will help reduce the tension of a flare up. In any case, it is best to keep busy.
  3. Realize that the storm will pass. Flare ups usually last from one to three days. After it passes, things will return to normal again.
  4. DO NOT DRINK! DO NOT USE DRUGS! One drink or drug will set off a chain reaction and you’ll find yourself completely loaded and right back where you started!

given to me by a counselor long ago -Dan

Hospitals have studied druggies/alkies that were brought in with brain damage severe enough to induce coma. The patients had to be fed through a tube. While they were hooked up to the IV's they took daily blood samples. A curious pattern started to emerge when they compared the tests for several hundred people who had stopped drinking/drugging when they were admitted to the hospitals. (coma's do that ya know... help you stop using that is...)

They found that the level of endorphines (pleasure receptors) dropped to zero after 4-7 days. Then after about 24-72 hours the endorphines came back AT A HIGHER LEVEL than they had been. Then at about 30 days the levels dropped to zero again. But after another 24-72 hours they came back, again at a higher level! This phenomenon repeats itself at a suspiciously familiar interval...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ normal endorphine level
~~++++++++++++++++ users level -- drugs/alcohol (+) provide the balance
~~1st week sober (notice the lack of drug support)
 FLARE UP (24-72 hours each time)
~~~~after 1st flare up (4-7 days)
~~~~~~after 30 day's flare up
~~~~~~~~after 60 day's flare up
~~~~~~~~~~after 90 day's flare up
~~~~~~~~~~~~after 6 month's flare up
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~after 9 month's flare up
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~after a year's flare up
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~normal level reached after 1 1/2 years or more.

Notice how the Flare-ups occur in the same time periods as we give chips? Makes one wonder doesn't it?

I imagine you are asking yourself... So?  So - if you relapse you start back at the beginning of the chart because your body stopped making endorphines when the drugs/alcohol started supplying them. That is one of the reasons people don't want to come back - they don't feel all right. Another reason is ego. Hang in there and you WILL feel better.