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 / Addiction Information / What Should I Do If I Relapse?

What Should I Do If I Relapse?

There's no way to sugarcoat it: relapse is always possible for anyone in recovery. But that doesn't mean that you're destined to relapse – or that you've failed if you do. 

 

You may ask yourself, "What should I do if I relapse?" First and foremost, don't beat yourself up. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and relapse is not the end of the world. Take a deep breath and evaluate what led to your relapse so that you can work on avoiding those situations in the future. Then, get back to treatment as soon as possible

 

With the right attitude and plan, you can overcome relapse and continue on your journey to recovery. Here are some tips on how to deal with a relapse if it happens.

 

But first of all, we all should know.

What is Relapse?

Relapse is a return to using drugs or alcohol after a period of not using. At first glance, relapse may seem like a failure – but it's common and almost expected in the recovery process. This doesn't mean that you should give up if you find yourself relapsing; it just means that you should pick yourself up and keep trying.

Stages of Relapse

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Pre-Contemplation

This is the "honeymoon" period when you first stop drinking or using drugs. You don't think about relapsing at all because you're still feeling the benefits of your decision to quit.

 

Contemplation

This is the stage where you're just starting to consider the possibility of relapse. You feel like you might be ready to go back to using, but you're not committed yet.

 

Preparation

This is when you've decided that you want to use it again. You may start by making small changes or telling yourself that you'll only use it for a little while. But it won't be long before you find yourself right back where you started.

 

Action

This is when you go back to using drugs or alcohol. You may have wanted to change your habits, but in practice, it's much more complex than just thinking about it.

 

Post-Contemplation

The final stage is post-contemplation – when you have stopped thinking about relapse altogether. In this stage, you're confident that you've changed your mind and habits for good. You can't imagine going back to your old ways ever again.

 

Even though relapse is a relatively normal part of recovery, it's not inevitable. Many people can find success if they're committed to overcoming relapse and working towards long-term sobriety.

Medically Reviewed:

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Rolling Hills Recovery Center

Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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What Should I do if I Relapsed?

Don't give up on treatment or your recovery plan. Even if you don't think you need treatment, it may become necessary if you've experienced a relapse.

 

Don't start using again just because you're feeling bad about yourself. Using drugs or alcohol may make you feel better in the short term, but it will never solve your problems for good – and you'll only have to face them later when they've become more significant than ever before.

 

Think about what led to your relapse. Was the situation overwhelming? Did you feel like you were stressed out and needed a break? If you can identify the triggers that led to your relapse, you'll be better prepared to avoid them in the future.

 

Make sure that all of your bases are covered. If you stopped using your support system when life got more accessible, you should return to your support group as soon as you relapse. It may not be easy, but building up this network of people who care about you will make it easier to avoid relapse in the future.

 

Don't try to hide your relapse from other people because you're embarrassed. They may be disappointed or upset, but they'll still love you and support you if you're honest with them.

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Tips to Avoid Relapsing

You can avoid relapse by keeping these tips in mind:

 

1. STAY COMMITTED TO YOUR TREATMENT PLAN:

Just because you don't feel like you need it anymore doesn't mean you can stop attending meetings or doing your daily readings. Keep going to your group sessions and individual counseling appointments, even if you think your treatment plan is a waste of time.


2. KEEP COMING UP WITH NEW GOALS:

Even if you've achieved many goals, you must keep setting new ones to avoid complacency. It would help if you also kept coming up with new strategies for achieving your goals – both the old and the new ones.

3. STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM:

Feeling stressed or overwhelmed makes it hard to see the good things in your life. But when you feel like you need a break, call one of your friends or family members and ask them to go for a walk with you.

4. DON'T USE DRUGS OR ALCOHOL TO SELF-MEDICATE:

Using drugs or alcohol is never a solution. If you're feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, ask your doctor for a referral to a therapist who can help you with those feelings. 

 

If you've noticed your self-esteem is lower than usual, see your doctor or therapist. Most people feel better after working with their medical professionals to find the root cause of their self-esteem issues.

5.  BE PREPARED FOR STRESS AND TRIGGERS:

Make a list of what you see as your most significant stressors, and devise ways to manage them if they happen again. Also, think about your relapse triggers, and come up with strategies to avoid those as well.

6. DON'T STAY ISOLATED:

Isolation is one of the most significant contributors to relapse. Make sure you're still hanging out with your friends, even if it's not for binge drinking or drug use. You can also go to support groups where you don't know anyone to meet new people and make new connections.

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Conclusion

Relapse is never the best option, no matter how bad you feel. If you're having problems coping with stress or triggers see your doctor about getting a referral to a therapist or counselor. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it the most.

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What is relapse?
Stages of relapse
What should I do if I relapsed?
Tips to avoid relapsing
Conclusion
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