A relapse may feel shameful and like a failure. For many, relapsing feels like a significant setback they cannot recover from. This, however, is not true. Relapsing is a part of the recovery process. In fact, about 80% of people who stay sober long-term have relapsed at least once in recovery. Some instances of relapse may be so jarring that it results in becoming much more committed to recovery than you ever were. That being said, your goal should always be to stay sober. Just because relapsing is common, does not mean you should want to. This blog will discuss relapse’s role in the recovery process and how to bounce back after you relapse.
Does a relapse mean you have failed?
Simply put, no, a relapse does not mean you have failed. Addiction is a chronic disease and involves many deeply rooted and biological behaviors. Addictive substances trigger a release of dopamine in the brain’s reward centers. This results in feelings of euphoria, also known as the “high”. Due to addictive substances causing the brain to release far more dopamine than usual, the user often seeks more of the substance to achieve this euphoric feeling again. Moreover, dopamine-related changes such as these are associated with decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for impulsivity. Therefore, a relapse may seem like a personal failure, but it is much more complex in reality.
Understanding how relapses happen is important in preventing them. Although a relapse is not something to be ashamed of, you should try your best to avoid it. Take time to identify your personal triggers and do your best to stay away from them. Emotional regulation is also essential in avoiding relapse. Triggers do not necessarily have to be physical places, people, or things, but they can also be emotions. Developing ways to manage your mood as well as learning how to cope with physical triggers is crucial in maintaining your sobriety.
Relapse is a common part of the recovery journey. When you relapse, it should be used as an indication that something in your treatment plan has to change. Use your relapse to help prevent you from relapsing in the future. Ultimately, the most important part of a relapse is what you do after you use. Choosing to reaffirm your commitment to sobriety and not go on a bender is imperative. Long-term sobriety after a relapse is possible as long as you re-commit to your recovery and get back on track with sobriety.
I’ve Relapsed, Now What?
So, you’ve relapsed. Now is the time to begin to alter your treatment plan and get back on track. How you deal with this relapse can help prevent future relapses. If you’ve recently relapsed, here are some actions you can take to resume your recovery journey.
Reach out for help
Support from your friends, family, and medical professionals can be extremely helpful in continuing your recovery journey. Surrounding yourself with supportive, positive individuals can give you the motivation to do the work and keep moving forward in your recovery. Relapses are most common in isolation, so being around loved ones and medical professionals best equip you to get back on track.
It is crucial, especially after a relapse, to avoid any possible triggers. Remove yourself from people, places, and things that may remind you of using and trigger cravings. If you cannot avoid a trigger, try to minimize your contact with it and talk to your support system about it. Triggers can also be emotional states, so talking to a professional or someone that can help you get out of a triggering mindset is integral to remaining sober.
Attend a meeting
Attending some kind of self-help group can help you get back on track. Twelve-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, can provide you with a safe space to discuss your relapse and start planning how to move forward. Moreover, these groups offer a platform to hear similar stories from others in the recovery community and how they moved past it.
Develop a relapse prevention plan
Relapse prevention plans are a guide to help you avoid future relapse. This plan will include your triggers and coping mechanisms you can use to deal with them. Including a list of different supports you can reach out to in the case of powerful urges can also be helpful. This list may include family, friends, a sponsor, a therapist, and more. Be sure to adjust your plan regularly so it is applicable in your life.
Taking care of yourself is essential in recovery. Taking part in activities and practices that reduce your stress is crucial in bouncing back after a relapse. Activities that get your body moving, such as exercise, are a great way to care for your body both emotionally and physically. The endorphins you get from physical activity can help you feel less overwhelmed and more relaxed.
Regaining Your Sobriety with Design for Recovery
It can be incredibly difficult to get back on track with your sobriety after a relapse, however, Design for Recovery can provide you with the safe space to do so. Design for Recovery is a sober living home for men located in West Los Angeles. Design for Recovery offers a structured environment to become more secure in your sobriety. Residents work hard daily to develop new skills, values, and coping mechanisms for approaching life in early recovery. During this process, residents develop close friendships with their peers and become connected with the Los Angeles recovery community. At Design for Recovery, we believe that addiction recovery involves more than just physically abstaining from substances — it involves building a new way of life.