Taking Charge After a Relapse: Steps to Get Back on Your Feet

by | Last updated May 15, 2024 | Published on May 15, 2024 | Starting Recovery | 0 comments

Someone climbing a set of stairs, representing the effort and progress involved in overcoming a relapse and continuing the journey towards sobriety. Steps to recover from relapse.

Addiction relapse can be an incredibly challenging experience that makes you feel like you’ve gone back to square one in your recovery journey. But despite its demotivating effect, relapses are a common and normal part of healing, and it doesn’t mean you’ve lost all the progress you’ve made so far.

While it’s hard to have mental clarity right after relapsing, it’s essential to start making a plan to manage it and get back into building long-term sobriety. 

Here are eight steps to recover from a relapse that may help you get back on your feet and resume your sobriety.

1. Remember That Addiction Often Results From Coping With Underlying Issues

Start by recognizing that addiction often stems from an attempt to manage underlying emotional or psychological issues. Many people turn to substances as a form of self-medication for conditions and experiences like:

  • Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental illnesses.
  • Past trauma like the loss of a loved one or adverse childhood experiences.
  • Chronic pain.

Recognizing this can help you approach recovery with compassion and a deeper insight into your behaviors.

Addressing these root causes through therapy or counseling can be a transformative step, helping you heal the core issues that led to the addiction in the first place.

2. Seek Help – Do Not Detox Alone at Home

You should never detox on your own as part of relapse recovery. Depending on the substance and the severity of the relapse, the process can be physically demanding and sometimes dangerous, requiring medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms safely.

Additionally, detoxing alone prevents you from getting the psychological benefits of contacting your support system or addiction specialists.

On the other hand, health professionals in a controlled environment can provide the necessary support and medication to ease the discomfort of withdrawal. There’s also the possibility that you may not need intensive detox and instead may be able to manage the symptoms with outpatient support.

In any case, if you relapse, “riding it out” on your own is hardly ever the solution.

3. Try to Figure Out What Led to Your Relapse

Understanding the triggers that led to your relapse is essential for preventing future relapses. To get to the bottom of it, take the time to reflect on the circumstances and emotions that preceded the relapse.

Were there specific stressors, such as personal conflicts or work pressure? Did you find yourself in environments that encourage substance use? Were you experiencing withdrawal symptoms? Did you revisit a person or place you associate with drug use?

Recognizing these triggers and exploring them with a therapist can help you develop coping mechanisms for relapse.

4. Get a Support System

Building a solid support system is crucial to recovery, especially when you are in a vulnerable state, like the period that shortly follows a relapse.

Try to surround yourself with people who understand the challenges of addiction and are committed to helping you stay sober. They don’t have to have experience with drugs themselves but should be empathetic enough to listen to you to provide encouragement and comfort.

Your support system can include family members, friends, recovery peers, professionals such as therapists or counselors, and people you meet in support groups.

In particular, support groups, like 12-step programs, offer a community of individuals who share similar experiences and struggles, providing a platform for mutual encouragement and accountability.

Having a network of supportive relationships enhances one’s ability to navigate the ups and downs of recovery, providing emotional comfort and motivation when needed.

5. Consider Going Back to Treatment

Depending on the severity of the relapse, returning to treatment after a relapse may be necessary or highly beneficial for you. 

Returning to treatment may offer an opportunity to re-evaluate and adjust your coping strategies under professional guidance. These programs provide structure and access to resources that support sobriety, including evidence-based therapies, education about addiction, and skill-building techniques for coping with stress and triggers.

Whether it’s resuming outpatient therapy sessions or re-entering a residential treatment facility, recommitting to a formal treatment plan can help reaffirm your commitment to recovery.

6. Recognize Your Progress So Far

When you relapse, it’s easy to feel like you’ve gone back to square one and have to do everything again from the ground up. However, if you’ve gone through any sort of treatment or gained any coping skills, you’re not starting from the ground.

Here are some of the things you may want to remind yourself of to realize how far you’ve come:

  • The amount of time you went through addiction without treatment and how much time you spent sober.
  • The relationships that have improved during recovery.
  • The goals you set during recovery and milestones you hit along the way.
  • Comments your friends or family members have made about your recovery.

Remember that recovery is not a linear process, and setbacks are a natural part of growth. If you see it this way, relapses are a normal part of recovery and don’t mean you’ve somehow failed as an individual.

Celebrate the victories, no matter how small they may seem. Every day you’ve spent in recovery, every coping skill you’ve learned, and every time you’ve reached out for help—all these experiences have taught you something about your addiction, and they don’t just go away after relapse.

7. Remember, You’ve Been Here Before and Have the Tools to Manage It

If you’ve relapsed, remind yourself that you’ve navigated this path and possess the tools to overcome it again. This isn’t your first encounter with the challenges of recovery; each previous experience gave you valuable insights and strategies.

You can draw on the coping mechanisms that have worked for you in the past and consider new approaches that might more effectively address your current needs.

Approach recovery as a journey of continuous learning and adaptation. This will teach you coping skills and resilience you can use whenever you relapse.

8. Remember, There’s No “Cure” to Addiction, and Management Is A Long-Term Effort

Finally, it’s essential to understand that addiction is a chronic condition similar to physical illnesses like diabetes or hypertension, and there is no definitive “cure.” As a result, the way forward is learning to manage addiction through ongoing effort and vigilance.

This perspective can help set realistic expectations for recovery, emphasizing the importance of sustained management strategies such as continuous therapy, support groups, and self-care practices.

By accepting that addiction management is a long-term commitment, you can better prepare for recovery’s fluctuations and develop a more forgiving attitude toward setbacks.

Seek Professional Help After a Relapse

The main takeaway from all of this is that relapses are common and a normal part of recovery. They’re not a failure on your part, and they may signal the need to readjust your recovery approach to serve your unique needs better.

With this in mind, we encourage you to seek professional support if you are relapsing. Surrounding yourself with addiction experts is the best way to understand the causes that led to your relapse and what you can do to continue managing your recovery moving forward.

Written by: The Freedom Center Editorial Team

The Freedom Center Editorial Team includes content experts that work along side our addiction counselors and recovery professionals. Editors and recovery experts carefully review our posts to ensure we are providing helpful and qualitative content to our audience. We pull our data from authority organizations such as SAMHSA and NIDA to ensure reads get the latest data, research, and information on substance use disorders and treatment.

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