What Do You Do After a Relapse?

What Do You Do After a Relapse?

Relapse is common for people recovering from substance use disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of people will relapse within a year of getting treatment for addiction. Relapse is difficult to deal with. You may feel shame, guilt, or disappointment. You may feel embarrassed for having let down loved ones. Some people take the position that relapse is part of recovery because it is so common and because such a position minimizes the stigma of relapse, making it easier to try again. However, a relapse is dangerous. Not only can it lead to all the negative consequences inherent in substance use but after a period of sobriety there is a much greater risk of overdose. Relapse should be avoided if possible but if it does happen it’s not the end of the world. People do succeed in recovery even after several relapses. If you do relapse, here’s what to do next.

Quit as soon as possible.

If you do relapse, the first thing to do is to get sober again as soon as possible. Some people feel like since they’ve already ruined their sobriety, they might as well keep going. That’s just the negativity talking. Objectively, the best thing you can do for yourself is to get sober again immediately. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get sober and the longer you expose yourself to something bad happening. If your relapse has lasted long enough that you’ve become physically dependent, then enter a medical detox. Do whatever you have to do to detox safely.

Reach out.

It can be really hard to own up to a relapse. You know you made a mistake and you don’t want to disappoint the people who care about you. It may be tempting to just pretend it didn’t happen but it’s important to face up to your mistakes. Lying about your substance use is part of addictive behavior and not part of recovery. Taking responsibility for your mistakes shows that you’re really committed to living a different sort of life, including being honest with your loved ones, especially when it’s hard. Let the people close to you know what happened and let them know you’re not giving up. 

Call your sponsor or go to a meeting as soon as you can. Many people instinctively avoid meetings after a slip-up or relapse because they don’t want to face the group and they don’t want to start over. However, situations like this are what the group is for. Everyone has been there and they will welcome you back.

Assess the damage.

Not every relapse is the same. Some people have one beer, regret it, and get sober again immediately. Some people have one beer, drink until they pass out, wake up hungover, and decide to get sober again. Some people just keep going for weeks or months. What you do next depends largely on how bad your relapse was. Be careful of apparently minor slip-ups, though. Some people take these as a sign they can drink or use in moderation if the slip-up didn’t turn into a week-long bender. What starts as occasional use may become more frequent until you’re back where you were before entering treatment.

Resume your recovery plan.

Typically, a relapse doesn’t just happen spontaneously. Relapse is usually the last step in a process that might last weeks or months. The first stage of relapse is emotional relapse. You probably aren’t thinking about relapsing at this point but you’ve started to experience some negative emotions such as sadness, depression, irritability, negativity, or isolation. You may have stopped going to meetings or stopped sharing at meetings. This stage is typically characterized by a lack of self-care, such as not getting enough sleep, not eating well, or not managing stress. In short, the problem began not when you relapsed but when you started neglecting your recovery plan. Once you’ve gotten sober again, get back on your recovery plan. You may have to modify it later but for now, it will be fine.

Analyze what happened.

The crucial part of a relapse is to learn from it. You can learn things from a relapse that you could never learn otherwise. Analyze what had been going on in recent weeks or months. Were you following your recovery plan? How were you feeling? Who were you spending time with? Had you experienced some major life stress? Had you experienced something positive, like a birthday or vacation? Had there been some major change in your life? These kinds of things often precede relapse. People are especially vulnerable during the transition from inpatient treatment regular life. Transitional care can help smooth that transition and reduce the risk of relapse. When you’ve identified what went wrong, possibly with help from a therapist, sponsor, group, or other people you trust, make appropriate changes to your recovery plan to prevent it from happening again.

Forgive yourself.

As disappointing as a relapse can be, it’s important to forgive yourself. Beating yourself up only leads to a cycle of shame and makes it harder to stay sober. As noted, between 40 and 60 percent of people relapse in their first year of recovery so you’re not alone. However, the important question is: what will you do next? If your goal is to have a successful recovery, then beating yourself up won’t help you achieve it. Learn what you can, stick to your recovery plan,  and try to stay positive.

At Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-262-7970 or Info@PatrickHartConsultants.com or explore our website for more information.

AUTHOR: Hart Consultants