Experiencing a relapse after completing treatment for addiction can be disheartening at best. It’s easy to allow negative, self-destructive thoughts into your head, and feel discouraged from trying again.
It’s important to remember that a relapse is not a failure. Relapsing can be part of the recovery process for many people, and that it’s still very possible to achieve lifelong recovery from addiction after a relapse. Many other people have relapsed on their journey to recovery, and they have managed to bounce back and recover fully.
The first step to bouncing back from a relapse is to forgive yourself
Experiencing a relapse is not your fault, nor is it anyone else’s, and it doesn’t signal the end of the road.
Forgive yourself, and work through the emotions that have come up. Identify what it is you’re feeling – anger, guilt, sadness, shame – and allow yourself to feel your feelings fully, without connecting any story to them. Use these feelings to fuel your motivation to get back on track.
Above all, be kind to yourself. If a friend of yours told you they relapsed, how would you respond to him or her? Treat yourself the way you’d treat a friend in this situation.
If you find yourself relapsing, don’t throw in the towel
Relapsing doesn’t mean your first treatment program didn’t work, or you’re “impossible to fix”. It just indicates that what you learned in treatment needs to be reinforced.
Remember, about 40% to 60% of drug addicts and up to 90% of alcoholics go on to slip up at least once on their path to recovery, and it’s not uncommon to experience many setbacks before achieving lifelong sobriety.
Once you’ve had a chance to process your emotions, reach out to your support system. Whether it’s your sponsor, an accountability partner, or your recovery coach, let someone know you’ve relapsed and you need some support. This conversation will no doubt be difficult to have, but it’s necessary to have someone to lean on when you’re struggling.
Consider returning to treatment
If you haven’t simply “slipped” but are regularly drinking or using again, head back to treatment immediately. Don’t think of it as starting over from the beginning; remember that your health and your future are worth it.
Think about finding a program that specializes in helping people who have had difficulties in staying sober and start planning early for what comes after treatment to prevent another relapse.
How can you remove remaining triggers from your life? Do you have negative relationships you need to cut out? Will you join a local support group, or does your program provide ongoing support post-treatment? Should you consider looking for a sober living home?
Above all, if you relapse, don’t allow yourself to lose hope. Think of your relapse as a stepping stone on your journey to a life free of addiction. We promise it’s possible.