March 7, 2019
What to Do After Relapse
Written by Joel Salvaggio
So you’ve made it through treatment, you’re feeling great in your skin and excited about where your life is going. Then, one night, a coworker asks you to grab a drink after work. “Just one drink.” You tell yourself it can’t hurt – nobody has to know. The next morning you wake up kicking yourself. What kind of damage did you do this time? Relapse can be one of the most frustrating and humiliating experiences that you face in recovery. Chances are you’re feeling guilty, scared, disappointed, confused, and tempted to throw in the towel to keep using.
Unfortunately, relapse can be common. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 to 60 percent of people who go through addiction treatment programs relapse at least once. In fact, some people relapse multiple times before finally achieving full recovery. Does it happen for everybody? No. Does it mean that your time sober was a waste? Absolutely not.
In hindsight, a relapse simply means that you’ve had a setback from a period of improvement. The most important thing to remember is that relapsing doesn’t mean you’re a failure. What matters next is how you respond.
Recovery is a process, and in that process we’re continuing to grow in our newfound way to live. After a relapse, it’s crucial that you take action right away to prevent your use from escalating and get back on the path to sobriety. After a relapse, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce your risk of relapse in the future.
Ask For Help
After we fall back into old patterns, and when this happens it can be easy to stay away from help. After a relapse, it’s imperative that you reach out for support as soon as possible. This could be your sponsor, trusted friend or family members, or maybe a professional counselor. Prepare yourself for a difficult conversation. Admitting that you slipped up can be difficult yet humbling. However, the sooner you tell someone about your slip and ask for help in refocusing your sobriety, the better.
Understand Why The Relapse Occurred
Often times, a person’s relapse process begins long before they pick up the actual drink or drug. Look for the red flags. After a relapse, it’s crucial to explore the reasons behind the slip to understand what triggered it in the first place. Did your recovery take a back seat instead of being the most important part of your life? Did you put yourself in high-risk situations? Did old thoughts of self-doubt and negative self-esteem come flooding back in?
Whatever the case may be, identifying our triggers and looking at our relapse as a learning experience can help us evaluate what led up to the incident and what we can do in the future to prevent it.
Once you’ve determined your triggers, red flags, and coping skills to help prevent relapse in the future – it’s time to put action behind them. Whether that be cultivating new habits, forming new support groups, nurturing healthy relationships or seeing your counselor again, these changes can help you develop a more effective recovery plan.
Relapse can often feel like the end of the world. If we’ve been sober for some time it can create feelings of shame, guilt, and doubt that you can get sober again. However, the fact that you were clean and sober before you relapsed proves that it can be done. It’s important to remember that addiction is a disease, and not a moral failing. You’re not a bad person or a failure, rather you suffer from a chronic disease. While letting go and forgiving yourself of the shame and guilt is easier said than done, it won’t happen overnight, but dwelling on the feelings and self-deprecating isn’t beneficial towards getting yourself back on track in your recovery.
Going back to treatment should depend on the severity of your relapse and the circumstances around it. If your relapse comprised of one incidence or in early recovery, you may find little difficulty in getting back on the path to recovery. However, if your relapse ended up consisting of a week or more, entering treatment again may be wise. Everybody’s story is different, and so is each person’s recovery.
Relapsed? St. Christopher’s is a premier drug and alcohol treatment facility in the state of Louisiana that provides clients with a full continuum of care. For all of our patients who successfully complete our programs, we provide one year of aftercare support at no cost, as another way to ensure long-term recovery.
Contact us today for a free and confidential assessment.