Forgiving Yourself After Relapse
Often in the addiction recovery relapse is painted as a moral sin. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in relapse prevention that we forget to recognize that for some people relapse is a part of the journey. Experiencing the self-perceived failings of relapsing during your sober journey is hard enough without those feelings being reinforced by well-meaning but misguided people in your life.
Relapse is counterproductive to achieving long-term sobriety- yes; but it’s not the end. If we view it from the same light as relapse in other chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis or certain cancers, then relapse becomes more an obstacle to be overcome than a defeat.
However, though we may endeavor to keep that in mind, sometimes we still struggle with accepting and moving forward with our journeys. For some, relapse is so devastating it negates the will and drive to start again- but you must. Sobriety is rarely something you achieve in the first shot; if it was that easy, addiction would not be the plague in this country that it is today. At this point, your recovery is about forgiving yourself after relapse. Here’s how:
#1: Accept That it Happened
Be honest with yourself and others. It may be hard to admit it aloud, especially to the people in your life who support you through your journey, but this step is the beginning of getting back on track. Accepting your relapse opens the door for being able to examine the why:
- an unidentified trigger
- ineffective coping mechanisms
- not using your coping skills
- testing your limits
- not being mindful
Whatever the reason, understand that this is a bump in the road, not a dead end.
#2: Talk About It
Now that you’ve accepted and admitted to relapsing, it’s time to talk about it. Expressing the emotions and thoughts behind your relapse is key to understanding why it happened so you can prevent it from happening again (though it’s okay if that happens too- it’s a learning process after all!) When we learn to be mindful and think through the underlying causes of our relapses, we regain power and control over the situation.
Rather you speak to a trained therapist, a religious leader, or just a close friend, express yourself. Odds are at least some portion of your relapse stems from suppression of emotions or stresses. Talk about them- but don’t dwell. Don’t forget to talk about the joys and appreciations you have in your life, too!
#3: Recognize This Isn’t the End
Tracee Ellis Ross, actress and daughter of the legendary Diana Ross, once said “I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.” The lesson in that is one we can apply to every step of the recovery process, but especially after a relapse. Just because you have experienced relapse, doesn’t mean that your sober journey must be over; it simply means the path is changing.
Sometimes relapse means going back to the beginning with rehab; sometimes it means changing up your aftercare plan. No matter what changes you have to make, don’t ever let go of your goal to live a sober life. Keep going until you make it- no matter how long it takes! We believe in you!
Do you have tips for bouncing back after relapse? Leave them in the comments below!
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.