Addiction is a complex and mysterious disease. In recovery, regardless of how long you have sustained sobriety, avoiding a relapse requires ongoing vigilance over your thoughts and actions and a whole lot of support.
When a relapse occurs, it’s tempting to give up altogether on your recovery efforts. You might assume that since it didn’t seem to work before, why would it work in the future? The fact is, though, that relapsing back into substance use is an unfortunate reality for most people in recovery. A relapse is not indicative of failure. If anything, a relapse demonstrates that addiction is a daily battle.
Moving forward after suffering a relapse might seem impossible at first. Relapse leaves you feeling guilt, shame and hopelessness. While true, it does not mean the end of your recovery dream. Learn how to move forward in recovery after experiencing a relapse.
What is relapse?
As with any illness that you’re recovering from, a relapse is part of the ebbs and flows of that process. For someone in substance use recovery, it involves returning to the substance after a period of abstinence.
There are two distinct types of relapses that you may experience. A “slip-up” is a one-time incident, such as having some champagne to toast a couple at a wedding or accepting that beer someone handed to you at a ball game. While these slip-ups may seem harmless, for someone with a substance use disorder, these could trigger lingering cravings and throw a wrench in the recovery process.
The other type of relapse is called a “full relapse.” This involves the individual taking the intentional steps to actively seek out the substance and engage in substance use. A full relapse might involve a night of binge drinking or a return to the compulsive patterns of the prior substance use.
While you should do your best to avoid a relapse, if it does happen, it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of your recovery. Your sober support network is there to help get back on track.
How to get back on track after relapsing
After a relapse, it’s normal to feel frustrated and discouraged. Most people realize that sobriety is the only option available for living a full and satisfying life. Seek the support of loved ones and humbly do whatever it takes to reclaim sobriety.
The next steps will depend on the type of relapse you have, be it a minor slip-up or full relapse. The plan of action may be as simple as renewing your commitment to sobriety and returning to your recovery community, or it may require that you to in-patient treatment. An outpatient program can also help feel refreshed and committed, while also obtaining the support you need to return to a sober lifestyle.
Keep in mind that recovery is a lifetime commitment , and that relapse can happen at any point. The recovery journey is a process that unfolds over time — there will be the inevitable bumps on the road, including the possibility of relapse. Look at these bumps as obstacles to overcome using the coping techniques and relapse prevention skills you have at your disposal. Never forget that your loved ones truly want you to succeed in recovery.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, and provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle – “everything for recovery” – reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.