June 17, 2019 Felicia Durling

Falling Off the Wagon: What to Do if You Relapse

If you or someone you know has relapsed you might be discouraged continue your sobriety. A relapse doesn’t mean all your time working on sobriety is wasted, look at it as a mistake.

What matters most after relapsing is how you respond to take back your sobriety. Relapse is not a failure it is a setback! Continue reading to learn what to do after your relapse.

Understanding What A Relapse Is

Relapse is NOT a failure it is a setback. Relapse after a period of sobriety is a common occurrence, professionals report approximately 40%-60% of sober people to relapse at least once.

Recovery is about learning a new way to live without drugs or alcohol and sometimes relapse is the best teacher. Don’t worry though, you aren’t alone. Take a few deep breaths, and prepare to regain your sobriety.

Understanding Why The Relapse Happened

Reflecting on why the relapse happened is a hard part of recovery but it’s necessary when it comes to staying sober. Take this time to reflect on your environmental triggers, underlying emotional issues, or stressful relationships.

Observe your thought and emotional patterns directly before the relapse. These feelings will be a good sign of how to avoid relapse in the future. If it’s hard for you to determine those patterns you should seek professional help.

A counselor can be extremely helpful in uncovering the reasons behind your relapse, and they can even offer future support.

Ask For Help

A strong support system is necessary for every successful person but it’s especially important for those in early sobriety. Being honest about your relapse, though it’s hard, will be the best way to move forward with your recovery.

The voice in your head may say “you should be strong enough to handle it yourself,” but don’t be so hard on yourself. Research shows positive support can decrease relapsing.

When you let others know you are having a hard time it creates the opportunity for them to offer techniques and insights to get through it.

Make Necessary Changes

Once you realize what didn’t work last time and use that to form your relapse prevention plan for the future.

Figure out your particular warning signs to develop healthy living habits and replace the immediate gratification of substance abuse. You can use your relapse to understand what might not have worked during your initial recovery.

Some people find it helpful to try a different approach to sobriety after their first relapse.

Form Healthy Habits

Changing your routine and forming positive habits is important for relapse prevention. The more you take care of yourself and work on bettering yourself, the less you’ll be tempted to use.

Society can put a lot of pressure on you to use. Images in movies, magazines, and TV can trigger cravings.

You will need to learn new habits to combat these societal triggers whether those habits be something physical like working out, or mentally like drawing or painting.

Find A Sober Community

Forming a sober community around yourself after relapse will guide you to a stronger support system. View your sobriety as a skill to perfect!

It’s good to have experienced people to talk to when beginning a new job, right? Think of your sobriety the same way. Just like beginning a new job, you’re going to make mistakes.

Learn to be compassionate with yourself when it comes to early sobriety. You can keep trying and tweaking what works until you find what works for your long-term recovery.

Consider Returning To Treatment

Fully recovering from addiction is a long-term process that often needs multiple attempts at treatment. A relapse can be a sign of something more that needs to be done.

Don’t be afraid of returning to treatment. This isn’t a failure but a conscious and deliberate choice to strive for long-lasting recovery. Look at your sobriety like a craft that needs perfecting, work on it a little every day.

 Forgive Yourself

It’s important to be compassionate and forgiving with yourself after experiencing an alcoholic relapse. It’s common to feel anxiety, guilt or shame but these emotions will do nothing but cause you stress.

This is a good time to find a healthy outlet to fight stress! Consider trying meditation, yoga, hiking, or running, anything that will release endorphins and naturally fight stress.

It’s dangerous to allow your negative feelings overwhelm you because guilt and shame can often lead to potential relapses.

Many professionals recommend a three steps system when overcoming guilt or shame:

1. Acknowledge the relapse.

2. Make changes.

3. Let go of your negative emotions and try again.

Dust Yourself Off And Try Again

It’s important to respond critically after a relapse to prevent any escalation of substance abuse. Remember, relapsing is usually the sign of something bigger at fault. Relapsing is not a failure, but a setback.

Don’t let your negative emotions overwhelm you. It might be easier to convince yourself that “sobriety won’t work for you” but it can and will work for everyone.

Know you are not alone, every sober person has felt the way you’re feeling before.

Being honest in your sobriety will be hard at first but being honest about your struggle will create the opportunity for your support system to offer tips and techniques to guide you through recovery.

Sobriety is a skill you will need to refine. This may take multiple failed attempts to be successful in the long run but don’t be discouraged, relapse is a common occurrence in recovery.

Follow our blog for more sobriety insights and rehab information.



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