What You Should Do After a Relapse to Get Focused and Continue Your Journey
Anyone who says addiction recovery is a straight and narrow path is optimistic at best. Recovery can be a winding road full of pit stops, speed bumps and detours. Many addicts who have come through the other side clean and are now living healthy, substance-free lives had their share of setbacks. It’s normal. You will recover, but here are some things you must do after a relapse to get yourself back on the path.
Forgive yourself immediately
You cannot move forward with your recovery if you don’t first forgive yourself for your relapse. Think about it this way: If you are driving somewhere and you suffer an unexpected flat tire, do you just pop the rest of your tires and give up? Of course not. You change the tire and keep driving. The key to forgiveness is knowing that relapse can be part of the process. Be honest with yourself. Is it ideal? No. Can you move on? Yes.
Focus on boosting your self-esteem. This starts with reframing your own narrative and refusing to compare yourself to others in your situation.
Resist the urge to become isolated
Addiction is a lonely disease. People with substance problems often push loved ones away as their disease progresses and takes hold of their life. This is due to guilt, shame, embarrassment, and a host of negative emotions. When you relapse, you are falling back into old habits - and that doesn’t just mean abusing. Isolation is an old habit that you have to work to overcome.
When you’re working to avoid isolation, you have the danger of being thrust into tough social situations. You must work on asserting yourself with your friends and family and dictating social scenarios that work for you. Avoid triggers and stressful locations. Don’t hang out at a bar, for example.
Focus on finding some distractions
If you’re addicted to something, you spend a lot of time on it. When you’re in recovery, you have to find things to fill the time void that’s left when you stop drinking. Filling your days with distractions is key, especially following a relapse. A new hobby could be a good idea and there are plenty that are suited for those in recovery. Try something that promotes mindfulness like yoga or gardening. Or just make a list of all the things you’ve always wanted to do.
Another “distraction” better described as a life shift is focusing on your physical health. A healthy body begets a healthy mind, which begets a better foundation for recovery. Dive into some sort of exercise - running, basketball, racquetball - it doesn’t matter what (as long as it’s fun). As long as you are doing enough to replete your brain’s serotonin you are helping yourself recover.
Lean into therapy
Even the strongest people are not equipped to handle recovery and especially recovery post-relapse - alone. Therapy - whether it be one-on-one counseling, guidance from a spiritual leader, group therapy, or step meetings - is something you should lean into at this moment in your journey. Not only does it help to hold you accountable for your actions, but also the people who lead therapy have seen it all. They know how to help you succeed.
Often a relapse is a feature, not a bug, of the recovery process. It happens to most everyone in your boat, and if you reframe the situation you can come out of it stronger and more determined to get clean. Instead of thinking of a relapse as a failure, think of it as a teaching moment and a character booster.