Unfortunately, relapse is a common experience for many of those recovering from addiction. Despite efforts to prevent it, studies show that nearly 80% of people recovering from addiction will relapse at least once before achieving long-term sobriety. The fact that relapse is common should not deter you from seeking help. The road to sobriety is long and difficult and relapsing does not mean you are unsuccessful or incapable of staying sober. Rather than viewing relapse as a defeat, instead, it is important to consider it a setback that you can work towards overcoming.
Relapse can happen for any number of reasons. A trigger, an enabler, cravings, or old behaviors can surface and lead to substance abuse. It can be easy to get down on yourself because of a relapse but having a desire to rectify the situation is all that is needed to start recovery again. Relapse can make it difficult to think clearly and may make you think that you are incapable of overcoming your addiction. Instead of sitting in these negative thoughts and feelings, it is critical to take action immediately.
How to Overcome a Relapse
Experiencing a relapse can be overwhelming. You may not be sure how to move forward from it and it can be easy to allow yourself to become consumed by negative thoughts and feelings. It is important to allow yourself time to grieve and reflect on the experience, but to also not be consumed by it. Taking action quickly can help you get back on track and regain sobriety.
If you relapse, you must take action and reflect on what led to its development. While it may be difficult to face, it is important to take responsibility, forgive yourself, and move forward. Addiction is not easy to overcome and viewing relapse as an opportunity to reevaluate and redirect your journey can help strengthen your recovery moving forward.
- Relapse is common: It is important to remember that relapse is a common experience and most people in recovery will go through it at least once. Relapse is not a sign of failure or weakness. Recovery from addiction is a process and a life-long journey. Recovery is not over once you are sober. Remember that you may experience setbacks in recovery, but it does not make you a failure.
- Addiction is a disease: Addiction changes the way the brain works. It is a chronic disease that hijacks your brain’s reward system in order to thrive. It can take years to undo the damage it can cause. Depending on the type of substance used, the frequency of use, and the age at which abuse began, some of these changes may not be easily reversed. Relapsing is not indicative of a character flaw. It does not mean something is wrong with you. It is a commonly experienced outcome due to the nature of addiction as a disease.
- Connect with your support system: It can be difficult to admit to your loved ones when you experience a relapse. You may worry that they will judge you or reject you because of it. Your support system is in place to help you throughout recovery, including in the event of a relapse. If you relapse, it is especially critical to reach out to your support system in order to address it as quickly as possible. Reentering treatment, attending meetings, and taking other steps to actively overcome your relapse is vital. It is easy to slip back into old habits and behaviors once relapse has occurred. Your support system can help get you back on track so that you can work towards achieving sobriety once more.
- Use it as a learning experience: Relapse can cause you to struggle with negative thoughts and feelings. You may struggle with how you view yourself and worry about how your loved ones will react. Rather than viewing relapse as a failure, use it as an opportunity to improve your recovery moving forward. Relapse often occurs because something is missing from your recovery plan. Take some time to reflect on what events or experiences may have contributed to your relapse. It can be a good opportunity to revisit how you cope with triggers, reevaluate relationships, and consider what changes can be made to support your sobriety moving forward.
- Seek Outside Help: If you have relapsed and you are not sure what to do, aftercare and follow up treatment is always an option. Sometimes we need a reset. We need to evaluate more closely what happened and why drinking alcohol or using drugs seemed like the only option at that time. Are we struggling at work? At home? In our sober community? Whatever it is, sometimes some additional help from professionals can help us understand why the relapse happened and provide accountability while we work to get back on track. Sober living is also another option. If you are having trouble staying sober in your current environment, joining a sober community that can be there to support you 24/7 may be just what is needed while you get back on your feet.
Recovery from addiction is a life-long journey and there will be challenges along the way. It is important to remember that circumstances will change throughout life and you must be willing to adapt in order to protect your sobriety. Rather than allowing relapse to dominate your life, you will have to make changes to support your long-term goals. Seek out support, reevaluate what your needs are, and reflect on what changes you can make in your environment to enable sobriety. Relapse can be an opportunity to grow and strengthen your sobriety to minimize the risk of it occurring again in the future.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.