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.
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.
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 MedlinePlus.gov.
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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