A few months ago, someone dear to me stopped by for a visit. Her face was swollen from tears, and her shoulders slumped in defeat. The words “relapse” escaped her lips with embarrassment. She could hardly look me in the eyes. My arms immediately wrapped around her broken body, and I whispered words of encouragement. While she felt trapped inside an inescapable hole, I knew she had only taken a few steps down. The top was close by, and she only had to keep climbing.
Relapse happens. Many falsely believe that it is the last step before complete failure, but it is the exact opposite: If you can overcome a relapse, you will be stronger than ever. Here are 7 ways to get back on track after a relapse.
When you relapse, it is devastating. Whether the relapse is minor or large, it sometimes is tempting to pretend it never happened. The days on your sober tracker must go back to zero, and it might seem unfair to start over for a simple mistake. But while your continual sober days begin again, your hard work is not wasted. Admit your mistake; it will remind you to never do it again.
Ask yourself “why?” This doesn’t mean beating yourself up, but it is a healthy way to analyze your triggers and weak points. Understanding what led up to the relapse will help you guard yourself better the next time. Was it an environmental situation that triggered your relapse? Was it the ending of a relationship? Was it depression, anxiety, or other emotional feelings? Find the reason so you will be prepared the next time it arises.
Tell Someone Immediately
This is probably the most important thing you can do; tell someone before you talk yourself out of it. They can support you, strengthen you, and listen to your fears. Having someone there is key to getting back on track.
Use Your Mistake as Strength
Relapse often happens during recovery; you can either embrace it as failure or use it as a tool for your sobriety. While shattering in the moment, if you recover from a relapse, it will give you strength that you might not have gained otherwise.
Create a Plan
Once you have determined why you relapsed, it is time to create a plan. If it was depressed feelings or anxiety, don’t be afraid to get help. Create a plan for overcoming the reason you fell into relapse, and move forward. List coping mechanisms you can use when the temptation comes again.
Decide to Be Sober
When a relapse happens, it is easy to give up. If you slipped up now, are you really strong enough to continue? You are strong enough! The only thing you need to do to recover from a relapse is decide to be sober. Once you make that decision, you are back on track.
At first, you will feel anger and disappointment over your mistake. But a relapse does not equal failure. You messed up, but it is not over. You must forgive yourself to move forward. Embrace your mistake and press on. Do not let your relapse define you as a person. You are strong, and a relapse is merely an obstacle on your path to living a sober life.