A relapse is not the end of the road. In fact, it may be just what you needed. If you find yourself having a relapse, don’t feel like you are a failure. Get back on track to being sober. If you need a little help, here is some expert advice.
- stop using immediately
- take action
- get professional help
- congratulate yourself for doing the above
- dare consider yourself a failure
- hide your mistake hoping it will go away
- keep relying on the same set of tools if they’re not working
- feel ashamed
For many, the fact that a relapse has begun is used as an excuse to continue using. The thinking goes something like, “Oh well, I’ve already screwed up so I might as well take advantage of this.” Realize that the only person you are taking advantage of is yourself. A relapse can mean anything – a sip, a bottle, a line or a whole eight-ball. You get to make the choice to stop again even after you’ve made a decision you would like to take back.
Instead of feeling ashamed, do something about it. Reach out and talk to a trusted friend and/or call your therapist. Reach out to your support network, be it a SMART meeting, your 12-step sponsor, or your church group. The best way to get away from an action you aren’t happy about is to follow it up with an action that makes you feel better. So dust yourself off, shrug off the shame, and get going back to the road you intended to be on.
If you find yourself unable to stop on your own, you can still take action. Reach out to a professional treatment center on your own or through a loved-one who is willing to help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it, but there is everything wrong with trying to fight a losing battle without giving it your all. Today you can get more than the standard abstinence-based residential treatment approaches that can offer options that may better fit your own goals for life. Just give someone else a chance to help you.
Once we get on the wrong track, it is very easy to keep punishing ourselves for past actions. Make sure that you allow some space to feel positive about the constructive work you’re doing by following the above advice. Everyone screws up, the questions is what you do after you realize it. By allowing yourself to learn from your experience you improve your chances of doing better in the future.
Failure is not producing an outcome you didn’t intend on. Failure is giving up on trying to produce any outcome at all. Don’t ever consider yourself a failure. Keep trying and you will never fail.
While you don’t need to broadcast every relapse or mistake to the world, it is important to have someone in your corner that you trust enough to be honest with. Almost anyone will do as long as you truly trust your relationship with them.
Einstein said that, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Well the same thinking applies to continuously using tools that seem ill fitted for a job. If you’ve tried one method of recovery a few times and it hasn’t worked, look for something new.
Yes, this is easier said than done, but feeling ashamed about your lapse is not going to make anything better. In fact, it is much more likely to send you back to the bottle, the baggie, or the pipe. Relapse is often part of the process of getting better and that is true for everything from cancer to diabetes and weight gain.
A relapse is not the end of the road for those seeking recovery from substance abuse problems. In fact, since relapse is a common occurrence, it should be thought of as an opportunity to learn what has gone astray so that future attempts are more successful.