You’ve been clean for a while. You were feeling good about your sobriety and strong in your ability to avoid using again, and then it happened. You relapsed. Now you’re wondering what to do after relapse. You’re feeling ashamed, guilty and like you wasted all that sober time. Was it all for nothing? The answer is no. Relapse happens to most addicts. What you need now is time for reflection, support and a recommitment to sobriety. You don’t need shame, guilt or self-blame. These are the real time-wasters. Here’s how you pick yourself up and start over again.
Hopefully you learned some key skills in rehab for reflecting on your actions, emotions and behaviors.Take this time to reflect on your relapse. Ask yourself important questions and take the time to answer them critically. What were you doing when you relapsed? How were you feeling? Can you identify any triggers that put you on the path to using? What could you have done differently? What signs did you fail to detect leading up to the relapse? Recovering from relapse isn’t easy, but it starts with this intense scrutiny.
The next thing you need after relapsing is support. You can’t do this alone. Tell your closest supporters what happened and let them help you as you try to pick up the pieces. They can give you good advice, hold you accountable to the promises you make or just be there to listen when you need to talk. For more active support, go to a group meeting. Reconnect with a sponsor or get one if you have never had one. Share your relapse experience with the group and you will find that many present have done the same thing. Just knowing you are not alone in what you consider to be your failure can make a world of difference as you try to move forward.
There is no shame in going back for more treatment, even if you relapse after five years’clean or more. Remember that addiction is a chronic illness and it will come back if you ignore it and fail to treat it. Go back to therapy or even a rehab facility if you think you need it. If you aren’t sure how much or what kind of treatment you need, consult with your doctor or with a former addiction counselor or therapist. Let these professionals guide you with their expertise and then make the choice that is best for you.
Tomorrow is another day and if you messed up today, it can mean a clean start. Once you have relapsed and sobered up again, make that commitment to sobriety. It starts right now. Knowing what to do after a relapse is important, and now that you have been through the experience, you will be stronger tomorrow.