Getting Back on Track

So you’ve had a relapse. Believe it or not, this doesn’t spell the end of the world. Even if you’ve had multiple relapses, it doesn’t mean that you are beyond help. You just need to get better support systems, prevention plans and coping mechanisms in place to avoid any future derailments. The point is this: Don’t give up.

Examining your relapse in more detail will help you get back on track; here are three steps to take right now:

1. Look at the circumstances surrounding your relapse. What, exactly, happened? What, specifically, could you have done differently before things reached the point of no return? Could you have reached for the phone to call your sponsor instead of reaching for the bottle after you got bad news? Could you have stayed put and practiced deep breathing instead of storming off to an old haunt? Write down your thoughts and discuss them with your counselor, sponsor and/or fellow group members.

2. List the details of your triggers. These are the specific activities, sights, sounds, or people, places or things that raised your relapse threat level to severe. Was it an emotional discussion, a stressful event at work, a tantalizing television commercial or a familiar smell – or perhaps a combination of triggers? Now, develop new plans for two or three of the major triggers, the ones most likely to cause another relapse. Needless to say, you’ll need to carefully avoid these triggers for a while, at least until you find new ways to cope with them.

3. Take a detailed look at what kept relapses at bay until now. Prior to your slip-up, what strategies or coping mechanisms seemed to work best for you? For example, did you head straight to the next available meeting after bumping into someone from your past? Or did you lace up your sneakers and go for a run to blow off some steam following a fight with your partner? List what’s worked before so you can see how to incorporate more of these strategies into your life now.

By learning from your relapse you’re building your defense arsenal to better cope with threatening situations in the future. Here are few more tips for resuming your sobriety after a relapse:

  • Take care to get your body and mind back on track. If a relapse lasted a longer period of time you’ll need to prioritize regaining physical and mental strength through proper nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise, health care, counseling and regular attendance at self-help support group meetings.
  • Stay focused on your recovery and only your recovery. Don’t try to concentrate on another major goal while you’re coming back from a relapse. You need time to get yourself together, and time to get stronger.
  • Recognize incremental achievements. Rewarding yourself for achieving a goal of one week of sobriety, or one month without gambling, for example, is a great way of recognizing what you’ve accomplished and spurring you on to your next goal. Buy yourself some new workout clothes or treat yourself to a relaxing massage.
  • Seek support often. Keep in close contact with those who are most helpful to you. This may be your family members, close friends, co-workers, sponsor or other group members with whom you share similarities or friendship.
  • Change your routine. Switch the way you drive to work, the order in which you do your exercises, the variety of cuisines you eat or prepare. This keeps things from getting stale and creates an aura of excitement and something new each day to look forward to.
  • Don’t see relapse as failure. Never give up on your goal of recovery. Relapse is a brief return to addictive behavior; it doesn’t mean that you’re destined to fail if you’ve had a relapse. You may need to go back into treatment and/or intensive counseling so you can get back on the road to recovery.
  • Always have new goals to strive for. Look toward the future, the way you want your life to be one year, five years, even 10 years down the road. Make plans that you can put into motion to achieve those goals. Remember, the rest of your life begins with the steps you take today. Your recovery begins now.

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