You’ve completed rehab and worked hard to regain sobriety. Everything is going well when, seemingly out of nowhere, the temptation to drink or use comes, and…you give in. A relapse, or a “slip,” can be a frustrating experience in recovery. Feelings of guilt and shame may leave you tempted to give up and continue to drink or use. Sadly, relapse is commonplace. The National Institute on Drug Abuse declares that at least 40 to 60 percent of people who complete addiction treatment relapse at least once. Many people may have multiple relapses before finally achieving a full recovery.
While it can be somewhat comforting to know that relapse is common, learning how to handle it is better. Again, you can come back from a relapse. You do not have to keep using, but you do have to brace yourself for some work.
After a relapse, all of the shame, guilt, and humiliation you felt when you first got sober will come back tenfold. Rather than hiding away in disgrace and continuing to spiral out of control, use these feelings as motivation to get sober again. Now is not the time to wallow–it is the time to take action and arrest the disease in its tracks.
Regardless of whether you have just sobered up after a night of drinking or you are amid a more prolonged relapse, you need support at this time. Consider hitting up a 12-step meeting, reaching out to your sponsor if you have one, a recovery coach, or your counselor or anyone that can help you make healthy decisions about getting back into recovery. Schedule a one-on-one meeting and be ready for a challenging talk. Acknowledging that you relapsed will be painful and humbling. If you feel that you cannot meet face-to-face, you can call, or send a text or email. Letting people know that you are struggling with sobriety is important and human connection is one of the most powerful tools for a healthy balanced life.
Especially if you’ve hurt your loved ones with your addiction in the past, this step may be incredibly difficult. Still, aid and comfort, or at least support, from the most important people in your life will be important if you want to recover for good. Approach your friends and family honestly, and make sure that you intend to follow through with any promises you make.
You may think that deciding whether or not to return to treatment or 12-step community depends on the severity of your relapse and the circumstances surrounding it. If you went on a week-long bender, another round of treatment might be in order. However, even if the so-called “slip” consisted of a few hours or a few days, and you may be able to get back on the path to recovery pretty easily, you need to address what led to a relapse in the first place and that should be done with other people in recovery.
You do not have to view your relapse as a step backward. You can look at your relapse as a stepping stone, a learning experience on the road to recovery. Many people relapse. If you think of each attempt at making a comeback as a factor in getting closer to your goal–an education in your collective sobriety learning–this setback won’t be in vain. Progress, not perfection, is the goal.
While recovering from alcoholism or substance use disorder, some people get entangled in a pattern of recurring relapse and treatment. This phenomenon is frequently called “revolving door syndrome.” Often in cases of revolving door syndrome, the person is not entirely (or consistently) committed to their sobriety. This lack of commitment makes a return to their substance of abuse too hard to resist. The cycle of repeated abstinence and relapse is severe because it has ramifications for the person’s health (physical and mental), self-worth, and whatever strong, positive connections remain in their life. While repeated relapses can be a regular part of recovery for some, continuous relapse and treatment can become a compulsion of its own and make it even more challenging to stay successfully sober long-term.
While a relapse might have you feeling like you failed, it can be an opportunity for growth. You can identify and strengthen fundamental life skills that require more commitment. Numerous individuals rise from relapse with a new respect for their disease and a more profound dedication to their sobriety. This restored motivation can benefit you by bringing you back from your relapse even stronger than you were before.
“Relapse is a part of recovery.” You hear that phrase a lot in sobriety. While it is true that many people stumble on the road to recovery at least once, relapse doesn’t have to be included in your story. Multiple relapses certainly don’t. If you find yourself struggling, either with a first-time relapse or as part of revolving door syndrome, you can make it back to sobriety. At Cornerstone Healing Center, our team of knowledgeable and understanding professionals will help you to get to the root of your relapse. More than that, we will ensure that you have an in-depth knowledge of relapse prevention. You can call Cornerstone Healing Center at (800) 643-2108 to discuss your treatment options. We can help keep you from getting stuck in the revolving door or pull you out if you are already there. Cornerstone can help you figure out what has been missing in your recovery, making this relapse your last.