Relapse Strategy During Recovery

The Relapse Encounter

Almost anyone working through addiction recovery will encounter relapse, be it their own or someones else’s. Having a plan or relapse strategy is imperative to success.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction (a chronic disease) can be treated successfully, but it is likely that those in recovery will face relapse at one or more points along the way.

Our friends over at Elements Behavioral Health suggest that relapse could be considered a learning opportunity, and we agree. Living life in recovery is a commitment. A commitment to making healthy choices every day, and we all make unhealthy choices from time to time.

The key to sobriety is in knowing what to do when your choices lead you into relapse.

Here’s Your Sign

NIDA says that relapse is often just a sign, or indication, that your treatment needs to be re-initiated or adjusted.

In such cases, it’s good to have a solid relationship with your therapist so you can get helpful advice and perhaps a new course of treatment. Your therapist can help by suggesting helpful coping tools and walk you through the potential triggers to relapse.

Relapse Is Not and Does Not Mean Failure

If you take anything away from this article, we hope it’s this truth: relapse does not necessarily equate to ‘failure’.

Think of recovery and living a sober lifestyle as a long, and sometimes winding road. That road may even have potholes that can rattle your healthy alignment.

But just as you would with a vehicle, you take yourself in to see a professional who is skilled at helping realign your thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.

It only becomes a failure if you do nothing about it. If you give up on yourself, or your faith in the value of sobriety, then you risk slipping into more destructive behavior.

Remember, you must own your recovery – and that means you must embrace the possibility of relapse.

Say No to Shame and Tell Someone

One of the hardest elements of relapse is the shame and guilt that come along with the knowledge that you made a poor choice. The natural reaction to such shame is to hide it and keep it to yourself. This is the most counter-productive thing you can do.

We encourage you to share exactly where you are and what you’ve done with the network of people who care about you.

Surely you’ve surrounded yourself with caring people who will not judge you, but who can help you get back on the right track quickly.

What to Do if You Do Relapse

  • Take responsibility. Admit to yourself that you made an unhealthy choice. It’s not the end of the world, but you must own your decision in order to correct it.
  • Go back to 1 day at a time. Just as it is in active treatment, you are encouraged to view each 24-hour period as an opportunity to hit a milestone. Commit to staying clean for 24-hours. One day will turn into two, and before you know it, a week turns into a month of sobriety.
  • Tell someone right away. No one needs to try to go through relapse by him or herself. Call a loved one or your counselor, and admit your poor choice. They want to help, and are often in a better position to do so.
  • Acknowledge and deal with the emotional side of your decision-making – and its consequences. Walk through the feelings that led you to make an unhealthy choice.
  • Remind yourself that addiction is a disease… not a moral failing.
  • Learn from your experience. Everything you go through during a period of relapse is (and should be) an opportunity for learning. Upon thorough examination of the thoughts, emotions, triggers and actions associated with relapse, you will be better equipped to recognize those symptoms as they happen – and make healthier choices moving forward. Having a relapse strategy will greatly increase your ability to overcome the negative aspects of relapse.

We stand ready and willing, and abundantly able to help you walk through your recovery, relapses and all, without judgment.

Contact us today, and let’s establish a relapse strategy. Call (303) 798-2196


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