Relapse can be a really discouraging experience. Maybe you came into treatment for the first time, thought you had it, and then…. It was much harder than you thought. Maybe life put unexpected triggers your way. Or maybe you weren’t so sure about this whole sobriety thing to begin with.
Maybe you thought you could moderate, or you weren’t sure life was worth it sober, and then things got as bad (or worse) than they were before treatment. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say relapse has to be part of recovery, sometimes relapse provides an opportunity to learn something essential. Some people become humbled, and can take a look at their sobriety with new eyes. Sometimes it means learning triggers, or getting in touch with an underlying issues. Other times it is a sign that commitment needs to be sustained and not lost, and relapse warning signs heeded. But there are a number of things that do NOT help in relapse.
What does not help is toxic shame. What does not help is beating yourself up. What does not help is blaming others for your decisions, or throwing your hands up in the air in defeat. All these things just add fuel to the fire.
If you have a relapse, the best thing to do is focus on getting professional and appropriate help (possibly including residential treatment), take some time for yourself to recover, and open yourself to the whole process again as if you were experiencing it for the first time.
Kirsten Helgager, Psy.D.
AToN Center 888-535-1516