Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Unfortunately, you relapsed.  Right now, you are probably blaming yourself and think you are a complete and total failure.   You are likely scared and confused, and you don’t know what to do next.   The first and most important thing you need to know in this moment, though, is that relapses happen – and they happen a lot. Studies show that somewhere between forty and sixty percent of the people that attend addiction treatment end up relapsing down the road, and for alcohol, that number is even higher; the rate of relapse for alcohol abuse after treatment is around ninety percent.

So, take comfort in the fact that you are most definitely not alone!  Many, (even most!) people end up relapsing at some point during their recovery journey.  Relapsing does not mean you are a failure and it does not mean that you are destined to live out the rest of your life as an active drug or alcohol addict.  What really matters now, though, is what you do next.    There are two options or paths ahead of you.  One returns you to the life you hoped you’d left behind.   The other leads to the clean and sober life you have been hard at work towards achieving.  Choose the latter path; dust yourself off, stand back up, and move on forward to positivity, health, and ultimately, happiness.

Why Relapses Occur

Although it’s true that you are the only one truly responsible for your decision to use, you really shouldn’t blame yourself and dwell on this mistake.  Continuing to beat yourself up over your slip won’t change anything for the better; in fact, it could only make matters worse.   Your decision to use was likely the result of several things, and figuring out what things influenced your decision will help you to keep it from happening again in the future.   A few things that can increase the likelihood of relapse after treatment include:

  • A lack of adequate planning for your new, post treatment life when leaving the treatment facility
  • A lack of support (both professional and non) and a weak social network after treatment
  • Inefficient or non-existent treatment for an underlying mental health issue or secondary/dual diagnosis
  • Failure to set realistic expectations for yourself post treatment
  • Regular and frequent exposure to triggers
  • A lingering belief that someday you will be able to casually use again without becoming fully addicted.

Presence of each of these factors can be a major pitfall on its own.  If two or more sound familiar to you, then it’s really not a surprise that you relapsed.  Learn from your mistakes and identify these weaknesses.  Act accordingly, and move forward.

Tips for Getting Back on Track

You CAN get back on track and continue your recovery journey.   Remember, relapse is defined as “a brief return to addictive behavior,” but it doesn’t have to be your new reality.   There are many things to do and consider to help get your active recovery back in motion.

  • Take responsibility for your mistakes. Avoid intensive self-blame, but do realize that you made a bad decision, and now you have to fix it.
  • Respond to relapse immediately. Don’t give yourself a chance to wallow in your sadness over your relapse, and certainly don’t continue to use.  Take action quickly.
  • Prepare for major life changes. What you did last time didn’t quite work; figure out why not.  Develop new coping strategies.  Make a new plan.
  • Deal with your depression and other underlying issues. If you have a dual diagnosis, and did not seek or receive adequate treatment for your other problems, now is the time.
  • Learn to combat social pressures. You are an adult, and you are strong.   Don’t let peer pressure take you down a dark road.
  • Fight impulsive behavior. You quit before, so you can do it again.   Don’t make snap decisions about anything.  Take the time to analyze your thoughts and then take the best course of action.
  • Expect struggle and discomfort. This isn’t going to be easy.
  • Reach out to your support system and work to improve it. Although you are disappointed in yourself, and fear others may be disappointed in you, the best thing you can do is tell them what happened so they can help you more effectively this time around.
  • Get professional recovery help. Addiction counselors are well versed in damage recovery after a relapse.  Visit one, and let him or her help you take your next healthy steps.
  • Get your mind and body on track. Exercise, meditate, read, reflect, and direct your whole self towards a positive focus.
  • Avoid HALT and put your basic needs first. Don’t let yourself get Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired – if you can help it – and in most cases, you can.  Each of these states are triggers, and triggers are relapses waiting to happen.
  • Learn from your relapse. Again – almost everyone relapses. Just don’t let it happen again.   Learn from your mistakes.  Obstacles are stepping-stones.  Life is a classroom.  Every fall is a learning experience – especially when you rise again.
  • Focus on the future. Look ahead.  Set goals and look way down the road, but also anticipate new challenges that may arise and be ready for them.

People relapse.  You relapsed.  But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s the end of your recovery journey!   Realize that it happens, get up, and move forward.   If you are vigilant and prepare appropriately, it won’t happen again.  Arm yourself with the proper tools and support and tarry on.  Good luck!

At Clear Sky Recovery, we are here for you, whether this is your first time getting clean and sober, or if you are trying to rebound from an unfortunate relapse.  Our facility in Cancun, Mexico is waiting for you!  Our ibogaine detox treatment can help you to dig deep within yourself to determine the potential causes for your addictive behavior.   Through participation in an ibogaine experience under our medical supervision, your addiction will effectively be “interrupted” in order to give you a chance to do the deeply personal work necessary to move forward on the path to recovery.  Please give us a call today.  Our intake specialists are standing by to answer your questions, and we look forward to hearing from you.