What to Do if Relapse Occurs
Like most success stories you hear about, the road to get there is bumpy, difficult and sometimes downright difficult. Achieving sobriety is much the same. You’ll undoubtedly trip, fall, and have to pick yourself back up in order to keep moving forward.
One of those bumps you might find along the way to sobriety is a relapse. Relapse is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a person in recovery. It’s also one of the most common. According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, up to 60% of those who receive substance abuse treatment experience relapse.
For those seeking long-lasting sobriety, it’s imperative to understand how to navigate a relapse and find the tools to keep moving forward. Below are helpful things you can do if a relapse occurs:
Don’t Give Up
The shame and regret you feel should not deter you from continuing to fight. It’s important to understand that relapses are common, and do not make you a failure. Your path toward sobriety won’t look like anyone else’s—and that’s a good thing.
What will make you a stronger, more resilient person will be your ability to get up and keep walking after you fall.
No one finds sobriety alone. One of your main goals after a relapse will be to gather people around you who will support your path forward. If you’ve stopped going to AA meetings, maybe it’s time to go back. If you still haven’t asked your friends and family to make adjustments to help you achieve sobriety, maybe it’s a conversation you should have. Be honest about your needs.
With more people around you to catch you when you fall, you’ll have fewer chances of relapsing in the future.
Examine Your Recovery Plan
If your relapse occurs months or years after you’ve completed treatment, you may need to go back and look at your recovery plan. Do you need to go back to treatment? Do you have outstanding emotional needs that haven’t been addressed? Have you paid attention to any negative or difficult changes in your life that you need help with?
Your recovery plan is never set in stone. It should adapt and change as you do. Work with your mentor, therapist, or counselor to adjust it as you need.
Rediscover Your Triggers
If it’s been a long time since you’ve last used or relapsed, you may have forgotten your triggers. Or, it could be that new ones have developed.
Lean on your support community to help you remember emotions, places, and situations that may be triggering for you. And, although you may be feeling strong and capable, it may be best to avoid risky situations for a while.
Learn New Coping Skills
Social pressures can be immense—especially when you’re in new situations and find yourself feeling exposed. If your old techniques no longer work, it’s time to develop new ones.
Aside from avoiding high-risk situations, it’s also important that you learn to find ways to unwind and find peace when you’re by yourself. If you haven’t already, look for alternatives to help manage difficult feelings and situations. Try yoga, meditation, exercise, spending more time outside, or reading.
Allow Yourself to Feel your Emotions
Cry. Get mad. Scream into a pillow. Recovery is difficult. It may be one of the most difficult things you ever do. It will make you feel things you never thought you’d feel. Getting to know your emotions and getting comfortable feeling them is an important step toward sobriety.
Feeling upset is normal. Everyone gets angry and sad. Your job is to learn how to feel emotions and utilize them productively, or just let them go.
It is important to find ways to re-establish yourself in society as a sober person. Explore safe places and people; and find little things—like an afternoon walk—that bring you joy. Recovery happens when you work to create a new life where it’s easier to not use.