Relapses can happen, especially early on in your recovery. Up to 90 percent of people who try to quit drinking may have at least one relapse until they manage a form of long-term sobriety, for example. Rather than homing in on your “failure”, it’s important to realize that these early relapses are rather common and are, in a way, a natural part of the recovery process.
Learning how to handle a relapse and use it to prepare for the future is an important step in the recovery process. Here are a few basic tips to help you get through your relapse and use it for the better.
Take Deep Breaths
Don’t let one relapse kick you off the right path. Relapses won’t make you forget everything you’ve learned about what it means to be sober, but they might leave you a little disillusioned, especially at first. It’s easy to be disappointed in yourself after a relapse. But don’t give up on your sobriety, no matter what.
Take a few deep breaths, and internalize that relapses are common in early recovery. Most people relapse from stress or pressure. It’s often that people maintain a high level of motivation and control immediately after a sobriety program or a recovery program has ended, but if you don’t keep in touch through group meetings or continue to educate and immerse yourself in recovery material, then it’s easy for time to erode your motivation and increase your cravings. Then, all it takes is the right circumstance to push you over the edge.
Learning to take deep breaths is the first step to figuring out what other ways you can calm down, relax, and manage your stress. It’s also important to have a plan in place for when you’re feeling the urge and can’t find a way to stop it from growing.
Recovery is a “solo path”, but we all need people in our corner. Having someone to rely on, or better yet, having a group of people you can rely on, is critical for recovery. This is something that can’t easily be done alone – but if you have friends and family who can help and support you, then even the rougher days are a little easier.
If you relapse, call someone. The first few moments after you realize that you’ve made a mistake are the scariest, and it’s difficult to think straight. Calling someone you can trust and rely on means giving yourself time to absorb what happened, and know that things will be alright, even if they don’t seem that way in the moment. From there, it’s important to focus on getting back on the right path.
Get Back into A Program
Sober living homes are the best bet for someone who has recently gone through a relapse. Different from usual forms of residential treatment, these homes are built as a sort of community for recovering addicts to come together and spend some time in a drug-free environment, until they sort things out.
All sober living homes have their own individual ruleset, but some basic rules throughout most sober living facilities include:
- No drugs.
- No violence or fighting.
- A strict curfew.
- Mandatory contributions, through chores and such.
- Group meetings and events.
- Monthly fees (rent).
- Mandatory school attendance/job/employment-seeking efforts.
Sober living homes are designed to help individuals learn the manage the stress of sober living and ease the transition from a rehab program to every day life. However, they can also be a great place to rededicate yourself to sobriety after a relapse. By taking the pressure off through a drug-free environment, you can continue to lead your normal life while learning more about your relapse through therapy. Working to figure out what led you to relapse in the first place can help you avoid a relapse in the future.
What Does A Relapse Mean?
It’s very important to understand why relapses happen. Not just in general, but specifically. Most relapses are triggered, helping recovering addicts learn something about their recovery. Perhaps there’s a certain thing they’re struggling with. A relationship, a worry, an anxiety of sorts. Addiction can amplify these emotions, and they can be particularly strong during early recovery, where everything is in flux. Perhaps the trigger can help you, as the person who has relapsed, better understand how life affects your recovery, and adjust accordingly.
Relapses shouldn’t be seen as failures – rather, they’re bumps in the road that give you the necessary cue to stop, look around, and evaluate what’s going on.
Of course, relapses are scary. And yes, you should avoid them. But no matter how your recovery goes, don’t give up on it. Relapses aren’t failures – but they can cause you to doubt your ability to get through this crucial stage of recovery. Don’t let them knock down your resolve.
Do Not Worry
A relapse can cause you to question many things. Above all else, it will cause you to question your devotion and commitment to being sober – and in turn, your commitment to others, especially if you have family and friends working to support you while you make it through this. A relapse can make you ask yourself: “Can I really do this? Can I really stay sober, if I keep messing up like this?”
By understanding that relapses are not character flaws, but signs that there’s simply something you can work on in your recovery, you can overcome these needless worries. To put things into perspective, more than half of all people who go through recovery relapse before the first year is up. Some relapse more than once. And it takes continuous work to stay sober. Yet if they keep up with their treatment and recovery nonetheless, they eventually reach a point around the year mark or so where the relapses stop happening as frequently, or at all.
Early recovery can be the roughest portion of the journey. Not that it’s always smooth sailing afterwards, but by working on identifying the causes and conditions for your relapses, you can learn to avoid certain triggers, better manage your feelings, stay away from certain locations or events, and move past these temporary challenges. In other words: it gets easier.