You Are Not a Failure: When Relapse Occurs

Keeping in mind that relapse is common, it is so important to remain focused on recovery after a relapse.

When relapse occurs during the treatment of substance use disorders, it is an indication that additional support is needed. You are not a failure. Talking to your doctor or therapist about starting treatment, resuming treatment, or trying another treatment option are recommended.

When relapse occurs, many people experience strong emotions such as feelings of shame and regret. It can be difficult to talk to someone and take the first step for help. You may be tempted to minimize the pervasiveness of an-ongoing struggle in your relationship with drugs or alcohol. Sometimes the feelings of giving in to substance use is greater. You may feel like giving up, especially when you are already feeling like a failure.

Imagine yourself in the middle of a body of water, struggling to swim. Your head begins to dip below the surface as you are barely afloat, gasping for air. You feel as though you are drowning. You feel helplessness, fear, and despair. You’ve hit rock bottom as you begin to sink to the bottom. Suddenly, you see someone swimming out in the water with you, offering a flotation device. Do you reach out an accept?

In recovery, admission into treatment or admitting you have a problem is the first step.

There are supports “swimming” alongside us every day although we may not know who they are until a crisis occurs.

Here are some helpful steps that can take while on their journey to recovery before (and after) relapse:

• Increase awareness of common risk factor for relapse
• Understand your personal triggers
• Develop a relapse-prevention-plan to avoid and manage triggers to relapse
• Learn effective coping strategies
• Create a new lifestyle of sober-living
• Repair relationships and invest in new friendships who are supportive of your recovery
• Participate in individual, group, and family therapy
• Be kind to yourself; learn and grow from setbacks
• Understand that chronic cycles of relapse often involve long-term and/ or multiple rounds of
treatment in addition to ongoing support
• Connect with recovery peer supports/ obtain a sponsor

Recovery is considered a lifelong journey. When relapse occurs, it may be time to alter the course of treatment. This may even involve returning to treatment. SAHMSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) can help with referral options

Remember that you are not a failure. We are imperfect people in process. Reaching out to accept help is a step of courage and an important part of recovery.

To schedule an appointment with one of our professional counselors, click here.

Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC

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