If you have recently relapsed on your path toward sobriety, you know how emotionally challenging this can be. After a relapse, people can feel tremendously guilty, sad, and anxious. That being said, recognizing the severity of a relapse means that you understand the severity of your addiction. By understanding that your relapse was a misstep and not emblematic of your strength, resolve, or self-worth, you are better able to work toward forgiving yourself and moving forward. The following article suggests steps you can take to set yourself back on the path of recovery after a relapse.
Seek Professional Help
While you may be hesitant to tell someone about your relapse, talking to a professional can prove invaluable. It is important to understand that asking for help shows courage and commitment — you should not feel embarrassed about this. Addiction professionals are experienced working with individuals at every step of the recovery process and have encountered other individuals in a similar situation. For many, a good first contact is someone you have already worked with such as a counselor, sponsor, or group therapy leader. If you do not have a specific individual to reach out to, consider calling an addiction hotline for immediate support. Generally, addiction help hotlines are staffed by trained crisis care professionals who can offer immediate guidance and refer you to nearby resources.
Talk to Friends/Family
Building a strong support network is an integral component of the recovery process. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with another individual can reduce stress (especially work-related stress, which often acts as a trigger for substance abuse), anxiety, and sadness. Telling a loved one about your relapse also has the power to keep you accountable for certain actions. Sharing can also strengthen your relationship with certain key individuals and allow you to develop a system to prevent future relapses. For example, some people find it helpful to phone a friend/family member when they are feeling the need to engage in their addictive behavior. Lastly, an empathetic ear can remind you that you are not in this alone and strengthen your commitment to sobriety.
A relapse can often evoke feelings of intense shame, fear, and guilt. You may feel as if you failed yourself, your family, and your journey because of a certain action. While self-blame is very common after a relapse, it is important to work towards forgiving yourself in order to move forward. Addiction in general often stems from feelings of inferiority and low-self confidence. Blaming yourself for a relapse can intensify these feelings, thereby making another relapse more likely. Feeling ashamed about what you did can lead to increased substance usage rather than sobriety. Recognizing a relapse for what it is — a mistake — is fundamental towards moving forward.
While moving forward after a relapse can feel overwhelming, consider thinking of this as an opportunity to adjust your sobriety strategy. Take some time to reflect on what circumstances and emotions led to your relapse. Once you recognize the elements that lead up to your relapse, you can begin to develop a strategy to prevent similar situations in the future. During this period of self-reflection, be honest with yourself and ready to take precautions to prevent a future relapse. Many individuals in addiction recovery find exercise and healthy eating to be highly beneficial. Physical activity and healthy, whole foods can increase dopamine levels, thereby helping you feel happy and relaxed. As you start to feel better, you are also likely to gain more self-confidence which has been linked to successful recovery.
The path towards recovery is just that — a path. Addiction recovery is not a finite destination, and it is possible to make mistakes along the way and still be successful. If you have recently relapsed, consider following some of the aforementioned steps. Lastly, always remember that you are not in this alone — there is always someone to listen, guide, and help.
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