Getting Back on Track: What to Do After Relapse

 A guest blog by Kimberly Hayes


Getting Back on Track: What to Do After Relapse


For many on the journey to recovery, there may be stumbles. Sometimes, relapse is a part of the path to sobriety. It isn’t a failure. It’s a moment to learn more about yourself. If you have relapsed, this is what you need to know and do.


Getting Help


Try not to let a relapse in sobriety define you, or your recovery. Accept that this has happened, and learn from your mistakes. This may be a sign that the treatment you were using wasn’t right for you. If you weren’t before, it’s time to get professional help either in the form of therapy, inpatient treatment, or another means that works for your individual needs. A relapse does not mean you have given up on yourself or your recovery. It means something needs to change.


Don’t put that change off for when you’re less stressed, or whatever other excuse may exist. Things can always be better or worse. Instead, focus on what you can do going forward, and the help you need to get to adjust your sobriety strategy. That doesn’t mean you aren’t experiencing the emotions you have right now. Grieve for yourself, if you need to, but don’t let those emotions hold you back from progress.


Have the Talk


One of the hardest parts of recovery is the act of talking to your friends and family. It’s especially hard to ‘fess up your shortcomings to your parents, spouse, or children. You don’t want to disappoint or hurt them. However, a relapse cannot be hidden. We need the support of our loved ones. Trying to recover without love and help from our family and friends can be even more difficult and leave us prone to relapse. You may find it easiest to tell them in a letter where you can have time to write out your thoughts, but do tell them. Allow them their reaction; they may be in shock or feel a sense of relief. Sometimes, they get really angry. If this is the case and they are unwilling to help during your recovey it may be best to not involve yourself with them for now.


While other people hold no control over our relapses, stress can make sobriety difficult for some. If you can, work with your loved one/s to determine a plan to get you back on track and moving into the future sober.


Stay Healthy


Addiction can cause our brains to burn out. It can become more difficult to use the feel-good chemicals our brains release. One way to help heal what’s in our heads is through exercise. Working out can also combat fatigue, depression and anxiety, all of which you may be facing during your recovery.


You may need to start small and build up, but even exercising three times a day for 10 minutes can greatly improve the state of your well-being. Diet is just as important during your treatment, especially if you haven’t been eating well. By abstaining from processed sugars, caffeine and by making sure you’re eating plenty of vitamins and minerals, you may be able to feel better emotionally and physically. You can read more about diet and addiction recovery at


Another way to stay healthy and avoid relapse is by learning to steer clear of your triggers. This could be anything from stress to people who encourage you to use drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, it makes sense to start over somewhere new. Before making any rash decisions, however, evaluate the likelihood that you’ll have the support you need in a new town and whether or not you can handle the stress of moving on top of the burden of recovery.




It may seem difficult, but the best thing you can do to successfully recover is to forgive yourself. Others have been in your position. Beating yourself up and holding yourself accountable are two separate things. You are not a bad person for relapsing. You may have made mistakes, but you can learn from them. If you continually dwell on your past, you won’t be fully able to commit to your present and future health. Instead of wasting time and energy by wallowing in what you did, which may actually contribute to further relapse, you should use this as a teaching moment to really focus on what went wrong. Why was your treatment not working? This doesn’t mean it’s time to blame others or make excuses. If an argument with someone caused stress which triggered a relapse, how can you better handle stress in the future? Focus on what you can do, rather than making excuses or being upset with yourself.


Relapse can be a normal part of recovery. It can teach us more about ourselves, and may help us find better, more effective treatment. If you have relapsed, don’t waste any time. Move forward and recommit to living your best, healthiest life.


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Alternative Recovery Methods For Addiction.

Alternative Recovery Methods For Addiction.

A guest blog by Kimberly Hayes.

The most popular recovery method for addiction in the United States is, by far, the 12-step program. Designed by Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 steps are highly religious in focus and involve accepting yourself as an addict for life. While this has worked well for many people, it can be ineffective for many others. According to NPR, the success rate of AA has been estimated to be just 10 percent – this leaves 90 percent of addicts still in need of treatment.

Most other recovery treatments are based on medical and psychological interventions. These aim to counter withdrawal symptoms with alternative substances (e.g.: methadone for opioid addiction) while solving emotional and psychological issues that may be underlying through counseling and therapy.

Alternative recovery methods are anything else that could have a beneficial effect on recovery, but that is not formally acknowledged as a medical form of treatment. This includes elements of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) such as yoga and meditation as well as other relaxing activities including exercise and certain manual hobbies.

How Do Alternative Recovery Methods Work?

Overall, most of these alternative methods work by reducing negative emotions that tend to trigger drug use. What most alternative methods have in common is that they are relaxing or meditative in nature, either by focusing on the breath and the movement of the body (yoga, swimming, meditation) or by keeping the mind occupied in a repetitive or creative task (art therapy, manual crafts).

According to Everyday Health a persistent negative mood and high rates of stress are significant risk factors for relapse. The majority of alternative recovery methods are effective in reducing stress and improving mood. Once incorporated as a regular habit into a daily routine, they become something an addiction survivor can rely on to feel better without having to reach for drugs or alcohol.

When To Use Alternative Recovery Methods

The main thing to remember when considering alternative options for treatment is that, by their very nature, alternative methods may not be extensively backed by science. You should learn to differentiate between those methods which have been shown to help and those with only anecdotal evidence to support them. If you cannot find any research on addiction specifically, look for research on the effectiveness of a practice in general – this should help you understand its value.

The most supported forms of alternative treatment are probably yoga and meditation. Both practices have a good amount of evidence them as effective tools for recovery addiction. Both focus on controlled breath – and in the case of yoga, physical movement – to calm the mind and body down and achieve a sense of peace and relaxation. For addicts dealing with stress, anxiety or depression, this can be a huge help. You could also apply this to other forms of meditative exercise such as swimming, or anything that helps you clear your mind.

Even then, you should not rely on alternative methods entirely. In fact, you should probably not rely on any one thing. Just like traditional recovery methods are a combination of therapy, group counseling, medicine and personal introspection, an alternative path to recovery still needs to involve several components.

Including yoga into your recovery could do wonders, but it is unlikely to help you overcome your addiction by itself. You may need the camaraderie of a recovery group, your own personal therapy, or the medical help of an alternative substance to stave off withdrawal. Different methods work for different people.

Many alternative methods can be effective in supporting recovery, particularly those which help you relax and put you in a positive state of mind. It may be a good idea to try out a few different options to see if there is anything you like or that makes you feel particularly good. Maybe you will feel great after acupuncture or a massage, or maybe yoga does the trick for you. Know that it’s OK to experiment and try different things and, if in doubt, ask the advice of a medical professional.


Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns. In addition to studying to become a crisis intervention counselor, Kimberly is hard at work on her new book, which discusses the ins and outs of alternative addiction treatments.

Can Bad Feelings Ever Be OK?

Bad feelings don’t make you a bad person. Nor do they make you ungrateful.

Everyone is inclined to the odd intrusive thought now and then. It’s healthy and natural. These thoughts can feel ‘bad’. The kind of thoughts we feel we ‘shouldn’t’ be having or the kind of thoughts that make us question what kind of person we are.

These thoughts can take up more head space than they need to if we start to punish ourselves for even having them in the first place, let alone deal with the thoughts themselves.

It can often feel daunting to express negative thoughts because we sometimes feel we don’t have the right or that people may judge us for doing so.

It is important to remember that these kind of thoughts do not make up the whole of us. We are multi faceted beings, entitled to more than one thought or feeling about any given situation, person, or experience. Sometimes these thoughts and feelings can be contradictory. And that is OK too. Thoughts and feelings aren’t permanent. They come and go. They change. Just because we feel one way today doesn’t mean we will feel that way forever or even tomorrow.

The real danger comes when we don’t allow ourselves to acknowledge our ‘less desirable’ thoughts for fear it makes us ‘bad’ or ‘says something’ about the kind of person we are. IT DOESN’T. It simply means we are human and we are changeable and sometimes we don’t always just settle on a thought or feeling right off without sifting through possibilities first. Maybe we really DO have more than one way of thinking or feeling about an experience we went through or a situation we find ourselves in and that is OK too.

All thoughts and feelings are valid and deserve your time and attention. They also deserve to be expressed and heard without judgement. Maybe then they might start to feel OK.

Why we all need to be seen.

What is meant by the term ‘Stroke’?

Transactional Analysis employs the term ‘strokes’ to denote any form of social inter-action where another’s presence is recognised. Therefore any transaction is also an exchange of strokes. While the general term ‘stroking’ might be used to imply close, physical contact, in reality and practice it may present in a number of varied forms.

Eric Berne, founder of The Transactional Analysis movement in Psychotherapy, maintained that, due to the very nature of our creation and early childhood, strokes were something required by every individual and something leading to feelings of depravation if not received. An individual’s need for strokes is highlighted in his book ‘Games People Play’ where he writes; ‘If you are not stroked, your spinal cord will shrivel up.’ Berne adopted the word ‘stroke’ because it referred to the infants need to be physically touched however it is also a need present in the individual as a grown-up.

Berne also described certain ‘hungers’, universally experience by all, and one of these is recognition hunger, the need to be recognised. Since physical stroking is not always an option for the grown-up, he learns to substitute certain other forms of recognition, such as a compliment or a wave of the hand, for the physical need to be stroked. Berne also acknowledged the individuals need for stimulation, both physical and mental and referred to this as stimulation hunger. A stroke, therefore, in the simplest of terms is a transaction which provides the individual with either stimulation or recognition.

Different ‘Strokes’ for different folks.

The strokes that we receive can be divided into several different categories, these being; verbal, non-verbal, positive, negative and conditional and unconditional. Verbal strokes can be anything from a quick ‘Hello’ between neighbours over the garden fence to a full blown conversation between good friends while non-verbal strokes range from a nod of the head to a hand shake or a hug. Generally most transactions/exchange of strokes, comprise both those of a verbal and those of a non-verbal nature. Positive strokes, by definition, are strokes that leave the recipient feeling good and provide a positive experience while those of a negative nature are exchanges that one may describe as painful in which the recipient is left feeling perhaps hurt or ‘not ok’.

In ‘Games People Play’ Berne notes that ‘any social intercourse whatsoever has a biological advantage over no intercourse at all.’ It may be clear to see why individuals would seek out positive strokes and steer away from negative ones, however this is not always the case. Given that the desired outcome of a stroke is the satisfaction of our stimulus or recognition hunger it appears not to matter whether the stimulus or recognition received is positive or negative. Think of a child that misbehaves in order to receive attention. The attention will more likely than not be of a negative nature, but any attention is better than no attention at all. If positive strokes are not forthcoming then one has to invent ways to receive negative ones. If a child has learnt that all he can do to provide himself with some form of recognition is behave badly he will continue to do so as, though he will not be left feeling good, he will have at least been recognised or stimulated in some way as opposed to being overlooked or stroke deprived.

‘Strokes’ and their place in Therapy.

If we regard this theory in a clinical capacity it is important that when working with clients who demonstrate attention seeking behaviours, the therapist recognises the importance of paying attention to them. Though, perhaps not always healthy, these behaviours provide the therapist with an insight into the clients survival mechanisms, learnt from a young age, and thusly, even if these are to be worked on with a view to altering certain aspects of a clients behaviour, they should be acknowledged and respected.

An important aspect of the work undertaken by a therapist trained in Transactional Analysis is the understanding of how a person gives and receives positive and negative strokes. Because, as infants, we test out behaviours in an attempt to see which ones provide us with strokes of any nature and equally because as adults we still have the same desire to be stroked, once we find which behaviours result in the receipt of strokes we are likely to repeat this behaviour. The more we repeat the behaviour, the more strokes we receive, thus reinforcing said behaviour. Adults will continually mould their behaviours to those that prove the most profitable in providing stokes. It becomes clear now to see why someone would continue to perpetuate behavioural patterns which appear to be damaging. If a person, from a young age has decided that they will seek out negative strokes as an alternative to feeling stroke deprived, as positive strokes were not forthcoming, they will continually find ways to provide themselves with negative strokes and as the stroking reinforces the behaviour that is stroked, so the cycle continues. It is then also possible to use this cycle to create new ways of seeking out strokes and breaking free of self harming patterns. If we were to begin to seek out positive strokes instead of negative strokes, as a grown-up, and we were to receive them with our new behaviour we would be then inclined to seek them out again, repeating this new behaviour.

Changing unhealthy stroking patterns, therefore is possible and a very important goal to be undertaken by client and therapist.

Our Reactions

Reacting in ‘the same old way’ in Psychotherapeutic terms probably means you are engaging in Script behaviour that may no longer suit your needs or who you are. I addressed the concept Life Scripts in my previous post.

As a child, when this Script was developed maybe you didn’t have a choice.

Maybe you learnt to react in a certain way to best get your needs met, to please others or to simply be able to survive.

Maybe you emulated how your parents or primary caregivers reacted to situations believing this was the most effective or only way.

Maybe you didn’t have a choice then.


Now you do have a choice however. If your old ways of being and reacting are no longer allowing you to live the way you wish to – they can be adapted, changed and re-learnt to better serve you in the here and now.

Psychotherapy can help as a way of addressing these ‘old ways’ and helping you to look for and establish ‘new ways’ that are all yours and no one else’s. If they are yours then YOU are in control of them. YOU and no one else.

You Shouldn’t Feel That Way You Feel

‘You shouldn’t feel that way’

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people recite experiences that begin and end with the summation, ‘You should not feel that way’.

For me, I lump that phrase alongside ‘Cheer up, it might never happen’ or ‘Pull yourself together’. A client of mine once even reported being told by his DR, ‘you should try being more like me. I don’t do that’. Once I had picked my jaw back up from the floor I remember searching within myself for something to say, anything that would have resembled a sentence more constructive, more empathetic, more sage……The likelihood is there would have been many things I could have said that would have improved upon the DR’s remark yet the startling fact remained there were none I could think of that would alter the client’s experience or reality at that time or indeed his experience on the whole. That was a full two years ago and I’m still none the wiser.

Here is what I have learned though (sometimes dragged kicking and screaming I might add). As someone who identifies as a compulsive caretaker, with a finite need to look after and care for others it is often hard to accept the limitations of my profession and at the same time I have to acknowledge that there are limitations to both the service I offer and any service offered by any therapist or mental health professional and/or mental health service. Theories are flawed and techniques don’t always work. Life gets in the way, people leave, people get sick, we get sick, we feel better, we feel worse. I am sure that cuts like a knife to the egotistical among us. I have to admit to being a little dented myself by my own admission. I spent a long time in training and continue to do so, to better myself and to learn more so I can offer more and continue to evolve this thing that I have started. Sometimes it is enlightening and sometimes it is like wading through thick dense treacle. It has also been costly, both financially and socially and so to acknowledge I don’t now have the answers in the form of a miracle cure or a magic wand or an instruction manual pains me to say. It is actually less the saying it that hurts and takes affect than the need I now deem inevitable; to accept it. Because it is true. Hell, people say things that they don’t mean all the time, don’t they? It is internalising and accepting that are hardest………

And then I swing full circle, back to being in love with what I do. It is so simple and so complex all at the same time because there I remind myself of what is important in the process, of what does work, of what can cure and what can change and it really is nothing short of miraculous at times. Acceptance.


It is all there is. You cannot change a circumstance by pretending it doesn’t exist, that it doesn’t matter, that it isn’t that way for you. Because it is. You can’t change the way you feel with all the will in the world by becoming something else someone else deems more suitable. You cannot run from who and how you are at times (though this will always remain an appealing prospect to some I am sure. I even include myself in that bracket). Acceptance is what has to happen in order to move on, to change, to grow, to survive.


If you have found someone who is prepared to take your hand and try and see the world in the way that you do, hold on to that. It can be a rare commodity for some. And if you havn’t yet and are still looking, take your own hand for a while. Never listen to anyone who tells you what you should or shouldn’t feel, even if that someone is you. Be as you are because by being as you are and accepting yourself you are giving yourself the greatest gift there is. If you feel lousy, you feel lousy. If you feel elated, you feel elated. If you feel like it’s all too much and you want it to stop honour that. You don’t have to act on it. Acceptance and acknowledgement are wildly different than action. Maybe things will be better tomorrow. Maybe they will be worse. Maybe nothing will change. Regardless next time someone tells you that you shouldn’t feel a certain way thank them, and remind them that you still do or if you don’t have the strength to disagree then nod and walk away, remembering to remind yourself that you still do.

Just because they won’t acknowledge what the world is like for you doesn’t mean that you have to stop acknowledging what it is like for yourself.