addict recovering from a relapse

How to Collect Yourself After a Relapse

By Nina Bradshaw is a professionally qualified social worker and therapist in the UK. She earned a Master's Degree in Personality Disorder Studies, a Master's Degree in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and a Master's Degree in Sociology/Social Policy/Social Work.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

addict recovering from a relapse

Relapse can happen at any stage of your recovery, although it tends to be more common in the early days. However, just because we recognize that relapse is part of the journey, it doesn’t mean that we should count on one to happen. Relapses should not be taken lightly and it’s important that we remain vigilant.

In case a relapse does occur and you feel as though you’ve failed, stop yourself from wallowing in regret and immediately prepare to pick up the pieces. During these moments, take these 5 steps to help you move on from what’s happened and find a way back on the road to recovery.

In case a relapse does occur and you feel as though you’ve failed, stop yourself from wallowing in regret and immediately prepare to pick up the pieces.

1. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Yes—a relapse is awful and it can lead to some severe repercussions, but we also have to remember that what we’re fighting isn’t easy to overcome. If you have achieved any period of sobriety before you relapsed, then you have practiced a notable amount of self-control. Instead of beating yourself up, strive to get back on track.

2. Continue pressing on

Many people feel that they will be judged if they relapse, so they find it difficult to return to their recovery meetings or community. This combined sense of pride and guilt can prevent people from reaching their objective. But remember, many people who’ve had any length of sobriety under their belt have experienced a relapse. It is overcoming your fear of judgment that makes the relapse part of the learning process. So set your sights back on your recovery, get back into those meetings and just keep on working at it.

3. Learn your lesson

You, as well as others from your community, can learn from this experience. You can reflect on the set of events that led to relapse and use that information to help yourself and others stay the course even when the urges are strong. This relapse can be a point of growth, but only if you’re determined to avoid making the same mistake. If you’re not sure what your triggers are, there’s absolutely no shame in asking for help either. You may use our list of nearby relapse prevention programs for extra support.

4. Renew your commitment to your recovery

Get back to basics. No matter how long the relapse lasted, treat it as if you are starting your journey all over again. Attend as many meetings as possible and spend time with others in recovery. If you had reached a stage where you feel more able to socialize with friends who are not in recovery, take the time to reevaluate whether you should continue to do this or be more wary of particular situations.

5. Pick up some new tools

There are many resources and tools out there that you can use to strengthen your sobriety. Maybe you could attend another kind of meeting, or ask your doctor about medication to prevent relapse if you have not done so before. Perhaps there is a particular book or treatment method you have not tried. Whatever it takes, try as many things as possible to maintain your recovery and move on from the relapse. If you’re looking to try a new program, you may also call 800-772-8219 or any recovery hotline that can point you in the right direction.

Remember, once you are in the cycle of change, you are capable of staying in it. Even if you feel like you’re taking a few steps back at times, just stay the course of recovery, keep treading in sobriety and your rewards will eventually become more apparent.

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