It can be a challenging experience when you relapse. You might feel regret, remorse, anger at yourself, or even shame for breaking your sobriety. However, you should know that it’s very common for recovering addicts to relapse. It’s almost as though it’s a part of the road to recovery. Although you’re taking two steps forward and one step back, you’ll eventually make it.
Yet, when you’re on the other side of a relapse, you’ve likely have those challenging inner feelings to process as well as the task of turning yourself around again so that you’re attention is on sobriety and not on additional substance use. It’s as though relapsing makes you vulnerable. You might feel like you’re starting all over again.
Process of Recovery
Sadly, the average national relapse rate is quite high. However, as mentioned earlier, relapse occurs so frequently in those who are recovering that it’s beginning to be seen as part of the process of recovery. Yet, there are some factors in the lives of some recovering addicts that have contributed to relapse, such as weak networks of support, underlying psychological disorders, beginning drug use early in life, and abusing multiple forms of substances. Furthermore, those who chronically relapse might not have the coping skills to manage the emotions that might have been leading to drug use. Such a high average relapse rate would definitely communicate that recovery will include relapse, that relapse is a “normal” part of the process. However, it doesn’t have to be. Learning new coping mechanisms, healing unresolved issues that lead to those challenging emotions, and creating strong support networks can help keep relapse at bay.
Rebuilding Yourself After Relapse
Yet, one of the most important steps right after a relapse is to rebuild yourself. The following are a few suggestions to consider in order to rebuild your road to recovery after relapse:
- Talk to someone about your relapse. Discuss your feelings and thoughts with someone who will understand and who won’t be judgmental.
- Assess your commitment to sobriety and why you’ve chosen to get sober.
- Review the challenges you might experience if you were to return to using substances regularly. What difficulties might you have?
- Imagine what your life might be like if you were sober. What joys might you have? And at the same time, what will you need to give up in order to have a sober life?
- Think about the resources you need in order to prevent another relapse. Do you need to spend more time with other recovering addicts? Do you need to have more sessions with a therapist? Do you need a sponsor or a mentor?
- Recommit to your recovery.
If you’ve relapsed, stop beating yourself up, if you’re doing so. You should know that long-term drinking and drug use creates changes in the brain that can last long after an addiction ends. In other words, an addiction has a strong biological component where triggers and cravings for the drug occur almost without notice. Even if you have made the decision to stop using, it’s easy for stress from work, relationship concerns with friends, family issues, environmental cues, running into old drinking or drugging friends, and even a smell to trigger an intense craving. In other words, a relapse can happen very easily, which is why it’s so common for recovering addicts.
Destination Is Sobriety
But a relapse also indicates that perhaps you need more support. Perhaps you there’s a part of your recovery that needs more attention. If you’re being hard on yourself because you’ve relapsed, stop focusing on that. Instead, remember that your task now is to rebuild yourself and set your destination once more to sobriety.