What to Do After a Relapse

what to do after a relapse

The first step toward getting past any relapse is to admit a mistake because mistakes happen. In addiction and alcoholism relapse can happen- they do not have to. Those who have been recovering will be dealing with anger, shame, and guilt over their setback. Adding to that guilt by dwelling on the mistake of a relapse only makes the problem worse. Admitting to and taking responsibility for the mistake and resolving to get past it is a critical step.

A single relapse can make a subsequent relapse easier. Knowing this, a recovering addict who has relapsed should set small goals for himself, since addiction recovery is made easier with goal-setting. Counselors often tell their patients to set a simple goal of making it to midnight of any given day without taking a drink or using drugs. This is an effective post-relapse strategy. Instead of just succumbing to the temptation of another relapse, a recovering addict can tell himself that he will stay sober for a few hours, until midnight. Once he accomplishes this small goal, he can repeat the goal the next day. Each successive day with simple goals gets easier, and the risk of another relapse is reduced.

If relapse risks are associated with triggers that have not yet been removed from a recovering addict’s life or that cannot be handled, he will need to develop a strategy to handle those triggers. Friends, neighborhoods, and social situations in which drugs or alcohol are available can be avoided, even though this may require an addict to jettison relationships that were formed before he started his recovery. Other triggers, such as job or family stress, will not be as easy to avoid. The addict will need to develop new stress management techniques and distractions to handle these triggers. This can include, for example, exercise and yoga, meditation, and other hobbies that distract him from the stress.

Getting back into group therapy and counseling can be critical in keeping a recovering addict away from another relapse. A relapse can haunt him and further hamper his recovery if he does not address it quickly. His best strategy will be to contact his sponsor or group leader within 24 hours after sobering up from the relapse to discuss what happened and for support and suggestions to prevent the same thing from happening again. Group members will be sympathetic and non-judgmental, and participation in group discussions can provide a healing salve that will handle any lingering feelings of anger or shame over the relapse.

It is important for a recovering alcoholic or addict to consider that a relapse is only a setback and not a complete failure of his recovery. No recoveries proceed entirely according to plan. One or two setbacks will delay an addict’s ability to achieve genuine sobriety, but they will not prevent that achievement altogether.  
Relapse Prevention and relapse management are critical skills gained through treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. If you have recently suffered a relapse, you can come back to recovery and find sobriety for good. Cottonwood Tucson is a leading provider of clinical residential treatment for co-occurring disorders. Our integrative approach is internationally recognized and critically acclaimed. For information, call us today: (888) 727-0441

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