Addiction relapse isn’t necessarily inevitable, but it is common in about half of all recovery stories. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 40 to 60% of all patients will likely relapse at least once during their recovery journey. Addiction is a chronic disease that can be treated but not necessarily cured, much like heart disease or asthma – which have similar relapse rates if patients stop with their instructed medical plans.
Relapse is normal. It is a part of recovery, and it is how you manage your relapse that speaks volumes about your journey.
It is also normal to feel shameful, guilty, discouraged, and any other negative emotion once you realize you have relapsed. However, just as it is important for you to feel through these emotions, it is also important for you to know that you aren’t a failure and your recovery journey isn’t over. You don’t have to slip back into those old habits and give up on your journey because of one (or multiple) setbacks.
Three steps forward and two steps back, as they say. You are still moving forward, in the end, and one day those backward steps won’t be as prominent. They may even disappear entirely. Regardless of where you are in your journey, it is ok to have a relapse as long as you are equipped with the information and discipline to properly manage that setback with a rebound.
Here are some tips to help you manage your relapse and rebound from it even stronger than before:
A. Brace For Impact
Even before the relapse occurs, you know in the back of your mind how you are going to feel if and when it does. Even while you are in the midst of making the decision to drink or use drugs, you will likely have those feelings emerging. Brace yourself for this without neglecting them.
Rather than shoving them under a rug, face them head-on and use them as motivation to continue learning and growing.
B. Reach Out
Probably the most important tip of all, don’t hide it. Own up to your relapse and reach out to your addiction counselor, recovery coach, therapist, etc., ask for a face-to-face meeting. This will be the last place you’ll receive judgment. When they see you owning up to your actions, they will not see you as a loss or failure, no matter how you feel in the current moment. They will help you to see the light in the situation so you can continue your growth just as you were.
C. Get Loved Ones Involved
Remember, you aren’t alone in this. Reach out to your loved ones and be honest with them. As tough as it might seem, these are the people that have likely been hurt the most by your addiction and are the proudest to see you in recovery. They will likely be your strongest allies in the event of a relapse, especially if you come clean about the situation and are humble and ready to rebound.
D. Returning To Treatment Is Still An Option
Treatment isn’t a one-and-done thing for many people. In times of relapse, whether it be a one-night thing or a longer relapse, considering treatment might be your best option. This is especially true for those that feel they don’t have the support from their loved ones like they hoped.
E. Change Your Thinking
Rather than thinking about and talking about relapse as a ‘setback’ or a ‘slip,’ speak of it as a ‘stepping stone’ in your recovery journey. Regardless of how it might feel or even look to outsiders, you know you are still progressing forward in your journey, and that is no setback.
When you level up in life, things tend to get a bit harder for a little while until your master that chapter and level up once more. Your relapse is a lesson in a chapter you have yet to master. A lesson that you may have made a mistake and chosen the wrong answer to the first time around, but that doesn’t mean you will be stuck there forever. You are learning and progressing all the more.
The key is to not let yourself get mentally trapped in a revolving door.
Life will continue to present to you the same problems until you learn from them and become strong enough to turn your cheek and choose the right path, even when temptation pulls you in the wrong direction.
Rebounding from relapse doesn’t have to be shameful or something to hide from the world. It can be quite the opposite and help catapult you even further along your recovery path. It all depends on what resources you have and how you choose to use them. Hopefully, these tips help you realize that.
Whether you have just gone through a relapse, are contemplating giving in to the temptation, or have just graduated from treatment, keep these tips with you on your recovery journey and come back to them!