How To Bounce Back After Relapse

03/04/20: Addiction Recovery
It’s no secret that relapsing during recovery from an addiction sucks. It can feel like all of the progress you’ve made in the last few weeks, months, or years of recovery is undone due to one moment of weakness. But the truth is, relapse is a completely natural part of the recovery process, and by no means should it be chalked up to a complete failure. Yes, ideally no one in recovery would ever turn back to their old habits. However, anticipating a perfectly smooth transition into lifetime sobriety and then feeling like an utter failure in the event of relapse isn’t setting anyone up for success. You most certainly can, and will, bounce back after a relapse. Here’s what you can do to set yourself up for success.

Understand Relapse

Often times, relapse is seen as a major failure — but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, relapse sucks, and it usually sets a person back from their goal of sobriety. Yet the truth is, relapse is a natural part of the recovery process. Drug relapse statistics show that more than 85% of individuals experience relapse and return to drug use within the year following their treatment. It is also estimated that more than ⅔ of those in recovery relapse within weeks to months of beginning addiction treatment (Sinha 2006). These statistics may be shocking and discouraging, but know that most people relapse due to a lack of planning and proper aftercare following the conclusion of treatment. It may take multiple relapses for them to finally build the knowledge and skills necessary to avoid it in the future, and that takes some significant trial and error for many. On a more positive note, researchers have estimated that up to 80% of people who find long-term sobriety relapse at least once along the way. So don’t worry if you’re on your second, tenth, or hundredth relapse. You can have what it takes to stay sober, no matter how many times you’ve experienced setbacks. Luckily, by reading this article, you are taking a very important step in your recovery journey. This is part of building the knowledge needed to fight the conditions that lead to relapse and understanding what steps to take following relapse to get back on your feet. By arming yourself with information and coping skills, you are putting yourself in a very good position to steer clear of turning back to your addiction when times get tough.

Seek Outside Support

Addiction can be one of the loneliest experiences one can face, and relapse can make you feel even more isolated. Relapse can create rifts between family, friends, and relationships because many who have not experienced addiction themselves may see relapse as a failure on your part, or even a personal betrayal. But during recovery, having a support system to lean on is one of the biggest contributing factors to success (Boisvert, et. al). A strong support system consisting of people who understand how addiction works greatly reduces your chances of relapsing in the first place, but will also help you bounce back quicker in the event that you do relapse. There’s a reason why peer support groups are implemented in almost all recovery programs across the country. They provide a variety of benefits to a person who has made a commitment to achieving lifelong sobriety. Here are some ways to rebuild or build your support system:
  • Apologize to the ones you have hurt.
  • Educate yourself and others about what you need to heal.
  • Let people know how they can best help.
  • Stay responsive and update loved ones on your progress when you can.
  • Show your gratitude.
For a full guide, check out this article on Finding a Support System in Recovery. Finding a peer support group can really help hold you stay accountable in your sobriety. But it can also be a source of motivation and understanding after relapse, because your peers truly and deeply understand the feeling of relapsing or being tempted to relapse. If you’re in a treatment program, you likely already meet with a peer support group, but if you don’t have access to this resource, there are plenty of locally organized groups for people struggling with addiction. Check out this site to find a support group that best fits your needs, and you can locate a meeting in your area from there.

Start Attending Counseling Sessions 

...Or if you have already been seeing a therapist or counselor on a regular basis, be honest with them about your relapse so that you can work together to come up with a plan for you to regain your footing and avoid relapsing again in the future. Going to individual or group counseling is imperative in building and strengthening healthy coping skills, which can be the difference between relapse and not. Counseling does a number of things. It:
  • Addresses flaws in thinking and teaches the person to productively modify them
  • Helps the person combat negative thoughts and behaviors
  • Provides coping methods and skills
...And so much more! Having the ability to accurately assess what you’re thinking and where those negative thoughts are coming from (and subsequently understanding what you need to do to combat them) is essential to lifelong sobriety. Not only that, but it is likely that after a relapse, you are going to be feeling like a failure, like you made a huge mistake that is going to be near impossible to recover from. A professional, experienced counselor will be there to validate your feelings, but also help you to be realistic about what happens after relapse. They’ve seen firsthand how common it is, but they’ve also seen how many have found success in achieving lifetime sobriety following a relapse (or two, or three, or 20+!) This reassurance can help combat the feeling that you have experienced a detrimental setback.

Consider Returning to a Treatment Program

Not everyone who relapses needs to re-enter a treatment program. However, depending on how severe and lengthy the relapse was, it might be a good idea to consider this if it feels like recovery is too daunting to tackle on your own. And it’s totally OK to admit that you need help again. This is precisely why treatment programs exist and are so effective because recovering from addiction alone is one of the most difficult things you can do. In a treatment program, you have the 24/7 support of licensed healthcare professionals, whose sole job is to ensure your safety and comfort. And an inpatient program limits distractions and triggers from the outside world so that you can really hone in on the work that needs to be done to achieve success in recovering again.

Forgive Yourself

Perhaps one of the most crucial steps to take in recovering after a relapse is to be kind and forgive yourself. Wallowing in self-hatred and negative thoughts will only serve to set you back even further. This isn’t to say that you can entirely avoid these feelings, but you must be prepared to face them head-on and be able to talk yourself through them in a way that is healthy and productive and doesn’t end in a depressive spiral. Recognize and address the thoughts and emotions you are experiencing, but don’t allow yourself to be defined by them.

Relapse Isn’t the End...

...It’s simply another part of the journey. Yeah, it sucks, and yeah, in a perfect world it wouldn’t happen. But these are the obstacles that make us stronger and build resilience when we learn to overcome them. See these setbacks as opportunities for growth, and the journey will get easier and easier.

Content for Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best. www.cohn.media


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact 602-737-1619 or email info@arizonaaddiction.com to get the help you need. Our acclaimed recovery environment merges upscale, luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare.

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