Whether you’ve been clean or sober for weeks, months, or years, a relapse can hurt. Most of us immediately judge ourselves and may be depressed, angry, and unmotivated about our recovery prospects. However, while a relapse is not ideal, it is important to recognize that you are not the only one who has experienced this unhappy event on your path of recovery.
In fact, an average of 62% of all addicts will relapse at one point or another, typically within the first 4 years of rehabilitation. However, for most, this relapse is only a short-term setback, as recovering addicts struggle with changes to their lifestyle, struggle with integrating what they have learned, or are exposed to too many triggers. The key to achieving long-term recovery after a relapse is to recognize the relapse and make changes to keep moving forward. Consider these five ways to bounce back after a relapse to get started.
1. Get Back on Track – Your first step should be to stop using. If you use your relapse as an excuse to continue using, you will ultimately fail. Stop using immediately, get rid of any substance that you have or still have, eat right, go for walks, and take care of yourself. Once you get back on track, you can make plans to move forward.
2. Get Help –Whether you’re attending group therapy, are in 12-step, or have a therapist, you need help. You should talk to someone, discuss your problems, and work towards creating a solution. While it can be difficult to admit to a relapse, especially if you’ve only just gotten out of rehab, or have been clean for a very long time, it is important to talk with someone to go over your emotions and feelings, and to decide how to approach your relapse.
3. Give Yourself Space – It’s easy to blame yourself, to feel guilty, or to be angry and frustrated with yourself over your lapse. You may also be experiencing these emotions from other people, especially if they were affected by your relapse. It’s important to step back and make the decision to stop blaming yourself. While a certain amount of guilt is healthy, your goal is the future and making sure that it doesn’t happen again. Guilt, anger, and blame create a negative cycle where they increase stress and potentially trigger cravings for your substance. This makes it more difficult to get back on track and to stay clean. Give yourself some space, focus on the future, and if necessary, remind the people in your life that you need help, not blame.
4. Recognize Why You Relapsed and Try to Fix the Problem – No one relapses because everything is going well. While the cause of your relapse is likely personal, it’s important to recognize why it happened and take steps to prevent it from happening again. In some cases, you may need cognitive behavioral therapy to help you to learn to deal with your triggers, you may need to develop better habits or stick to your existing plans, and you might need significant life changes. For example, if your job is frequently causing you stress, you may need a new job. Everyone’s triggers are different, but stress, proximity to the substance, loneliness, and anger are very frequent triggers.
5. Create a Plan that Allows You to Move Forward – Most of us know that it’s easy to fail goals. After all, only 2% of all people who make New Year’s resolutions fulfill them. However, data shows that this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with willpower or how people work towards their goals, but rather in how people plan to achieve their goals. For example, the average person who wants to achieve something will pick a general but rather undefined goal like “Lose 2 lbs. every week” or “write in my journal every evening”. Studies show that these types of goals make it easy to fail because if you fail once, you can easily demotivate yourself by thinking that you’ve failed entirely. By shifting your mental attitude and your goal making, you can change failure into a setback but not a demotivator that could potentially send you back to your addiction. Just like slipping up on a diet doesn’t mean that you might as well go binge on hamburgers because you’ve failed your diet, relapsing doesn’t mean you have to give up. Plan goals that allow for mistakes because you are human. Breaking your goals down into small steps will help you to stay motivated, even if you slip up. For example, creating individual goals of abstinence for every single day allows you to associate issues with just one day. Plan smaller goals, create milestones for motivation, and reward yourself with something fun when you pass your milestones. A relapse can be a huge setback on your way to recovery, but it isn’t the end of the line. It’s important to pick yourself up, make a plan for recovery, to get help, and to keep moving forward. Remember, it’s the future that counts. Good luck with your recovery. If you or a loved one needs treatment for substance abuse addiction or alcoholism, contact our Southern California Addiction Treatment Center today to discuss detox and treatment program options. One of our professional and experienced advisors will speak with you at 877-279-1777 today in complete confidence.