You were doing so well. You had hit rock-bottom and got help. You got clean and started your life over. Then you ran into an old friend who is still using or a new friend invited you out to one drink after work. Perhaps you’ve been falling further into depression and feeling more isolated.
However it happened, you relapsed. So what now? You worked so hard to get sober and you just threw it all away. All that work was for nothing.
Wrong! Nothing could be further from the truth. You’ve relapsed but you can get back on track and you will be even wiser this time around. Relapse is not the end of the world unless you give up. You can come back from relapse stronger than before.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
The feelings of guilt and humiliation can seem too much to bear. That’s common when you relapse. You turned back to alcohol or drugs and you can’t change that but you can control how you react. Those feelings can lead to continuing your relapse and using even more alcohol or drugs. Don’t let yourself get caught up in that cycle of beating yourself up and falling further into your habit. Get help. Get it right now.
How Bad Is Your Relapse?
Did you have a drink with a friend and ended up on a binge? Did you use alcohol or drugs for an entire “lost weekend”? Did you get clean only to fall back into substance abuse for months or years? How bad you relapse and how long may determine the kind of treatment you need to get back into recovery.
Where Should I Turn for Help?
Do you feel like you can take back control in an outpatient setting? Some recovering addicts feel like they can reach out to their support system and quickly bounce back from a relapse. If you have a strong support system this may be true. Try reaching out to friends and family if they can support you in a nonjudgmental way. It’s hard to admit that you’ve “fallen off the wagon,” but only you will know if they can offer the compassionate support and understanding you need. You made a mistake but now it’s time to get back on track.
Some people prefer to turn to a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to find support from people who understand your situation better and may have had one or more relapses themselves. If you don’t want to admit you had a relapse to family or friends, this is a way to do it anonymously. (Or at least among those who understand your predicament.)
Still, others may feel the need to go back to inpatient treatment because they are still wanting to relapse or it was an extended indiscretion. If you have a counselor or therapist you may be able to go that route in an outpatient setting, but don’t rule out going back to rehab. The advantages of going back to rehab are obvious, but everyone in your social circle will know. That’s not important in the big picture, but you’re already feeling fragile and humiliated and that makes getting back into recovery that much harder.
Can Relapse Be a Stepping Stone to a Stronger Recovery?
The short answer is yes, it can. It takes many people suffering from substance use disorder a few tries to get right. They may go through relapse a time or two (or more) before finally reaching a point where sobriety sticks with them. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to stay sober in recovery when you’ve slipped up. What’s the alternative when you relapse and don’t know what to do? Are you going to simply give up? We hope we don’t have to give you the answer to that question, but if you’re feeling depressed and hopeless, pick yourself up and try again.
Take Relapse Seriously
While relapse does happen and it’s not the end of the world, that doesn’t mean you can take a nonchalant attitude toward relapsing. You don’t want to make rehab the proverbial revolving door that you’re in and out of so much you feel like a frequent flyer. We don’t want to get so accustomed to relapsing that we just shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh, here we go again. I’ve done this before.” Relapse is a serious issue but you can overcome it and get sober again.
There Is a Positive Side
At the risk of sounding like everything is sunshine and roses, there is a positive side to relapsing–at least there can be if you can turn lemons into lemonade. Sometimes you need a reminder of how fragile your sobriety is and that you need to take better care to watch for relapse triggers and make a plan for staying sober. Do you know that saying about how the bones that get broken become your point of strength? Use your broken recovery to heal and become stronger.
When you first get into recovery, you may feel that you are far too strong to ever relapse. Relapse can happen to everyone, from the most confident person to the one who is afraid they will relapse so they make sure to make a plan and identify their triggers. The most important thing to understand is that relapse is not the end of the world. It may feel like starting over, but you can turn to your support systems for help, whether it’s family, your support groups, or going back to inpatient treatment. At Everlast Recovery Center, we know that some people will suffer a relapse, and not only do we give you the skills to cope during our treatment program, but we follow up with aftercare to help keep you sober. With home-cooked meals and holistic healing programs at our Riverside, California facility, we offer these supplemental programs to traditional counseling and we make sure we do all we can to prepare you for life outside treatment. If you do relapse, we’ll be there for you. Call us today and learn how we can help at 866-DETOX-25, (866-338-6925).