What To Do After A Relapse: Steps To Get Back On Track

Relapse can feel like a sudden plunge after climbing a steep hill. It’s disheartening and makes you feel like all your progress was for naught. But that’s far from the truth. As an organization that has navigated this rocky terrain personally or through the lens of supporting others, we know that relapse, while challenging, is not the end of your journey. It’s a bend in the road, and you can find your way back on track with the right approach.


Understanding Relapse


Firstly, it’s essential to understand what a relapse is. In the context of mental health and addiction recovery, a relapse is a return to substance use or destructive behaviors after a period of improvement or recovery. It’s a standard part of the recovery process; statistics suggest that between 40% to 60% of individuals in recovery from substance abuse experience at least one relapse before achieving lasting sobriety. This happens because recovery is not linear; it’s full of ups and downs, successes and setbacks.


Why Relapse Happens


Relapse generally happens for a myriad of reasons. It may be triggered by stress, exposure to old environments or social circles associated with prior behaviors, or unexpected life challenges that feel overwhelming. It could also stem from a feeling of overconfidence, where one might feel capable of handling more than they actually can. Understanding your triggers can be a crucial step in preventing future relapses.


Steps to Take After a Relapse


  1. Forgive Yourself. The first and perhaps most crucial step after a relapse is to forgive yourself. Relapse doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it means facing a setback that can lead to a more profound understanding and stronger resolve. Self-blame can be detrimental and hinder your progress. Remember, recovery is a journey, and self-compassion is your companion.
  2. Seek Support. Reach out to someone you trust. This could be a friend, family member, therapist, or support group. Sharing what you’re going through can lessen the burden of guilt and help reinforce your support network. Remember, you’re not alone, and many have walked this path before you and will understand your struggle.
  3. Reflect and Learn. Take some time to think about what led to your relapse. Identifying the triggers and understanding the circumstances can help you develop strategies to avoid similar situations in the future. This reflection can be done independently, but discussing it with a therapist or a trusted advisor can provide additional insights.
  4. Revisit and Adjust Your Recovery Plan. After understanding more about the circumstances that led to your relapse, adjust your recovery plan accordingly. This might mean setting more strict boundaries, finding new coping mechanisms, or changing your goals to make them more realistic and attainable.
  5. Re-establish Your Routine. A stable routine can be incredibly beneficial in recovery. It helps to bring back structure and reduces the number of decisions you have to make daily, which can be a source of stress. Prioritize healthy habits like regular sleep, nutritious meals, physical activity, and mindful practices such as meditation or journaling.
  6. Build Healthy Habits. Focus on building habits that support your mental and physical health. This includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
  7. Avoid High-Risk Situations. Avoid environments and social situations that expose you to the behaviors you’re trying to leave behind as much as possible. Protecting your recovery space by choosing your surroundings and company wisely is essential.


Truths To Hold On To After A Relapse


After relapse, be sure to remind yourself of these truths. 

  1. You Are Not A Failure

Relapse is a common and manageable part of the recovery journey, not a sign of failure. It provides valuable insights for ongoing improvement.

  1. Recovery Isn’t Over

Recovery is a continuous, evolving process. It involves adapting strategies and learning from experiences, including setbacks.

  1. You Need Support

Building and maintaining a support network is key. Engaging with friends, family, and professionals can provide encouragement and guidance essential for recovery.

  1. Mistakes Don’t Define You

Treat yourself with kindness and understanding after a relapse. Self-compassion fosters resilience and helps reduce feelings of guilt and shame.

  1. You Can Restart Anytime

Every day is a fresh start. Use what you’ve learned from your relapse to make better choices moving forward and continue your recovery with renewed focus.


Moving Forward


A relapse is not a stop sign; it’s a detour. It indicates that some parts of your recovery plan need tweaking, not that the entire journey is off course. Each step back offers an opportunity to learn more about yourself, your needs, and the best strategies for you. With each setback, you can gain strength and insight, making you more equipped to continue on your path to recovery.


Remember, the road to recovery is seldom straight. It’s paved with challenges, but opportunities for growth and resilience accompany each. Keep pressing forward, and trust in your ability to overcome. You can also contact us to talk to one of our recovery coaches.

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