I just relapsed: What do I do now? That’s a thought no one in recovery ever wants to think, but relapse is very likely to be part of your recovery. And while this is probably one of the scariest times in your life, it isn’t an end – it’s a beginning, in fact – and you are not alone. There are people to help you get through it. When you relapse, or if you slip or are thinking about using again, taking quick action to reconnect to your support network is the most important thing you can do.
Here are the first things you should do when you have started using again:
- Get in touch with your sponsor, if you have one. Pick up the phone and tell your sponsor you just relapsed. Be prepared to get in the car, or have a friend drive you, to meet with your sponsor so that you can get immediate support. If your sponsor isn’t available, attend a support group meeting right away. While a meeting won’t give you the one-on-one relationship and guidance you get from your sponsor, this proactive approach will ensure you surround yourself with others who care about your efforts to maintain your sobriety.
- Ditch your stash. If you’ve just relapsed, there are likely still bottles of booze, pills, illicit drugs, pornography or other addictive substances or objects around you or accessible to you. Without delay, get rid of each and every one of them. If you don’t trust yourself to do this, ask your sponsor, a trusted loved one or family member to clean out the stash so that your environment is again safe and free of temptations to use.
- Lean on your loved ones. During this time of uncertainty and confusion, the last people you probably want to talk with about your relapse are your friends and family. You likely feel upset and ashamed at what you may see as a failure in yourself. But these are key members of your support network and you absolutely need to include them in your plans to get back into recovery. Ask for their help and continued support as you double down on your efforts to achieve lasting sobriety.
- Review your relapse prevention plan. If you went through treatment you probably created a relapse prevention plan. This step-by-step action plan is there for you to follow if you get into trouble. It includes basic things that you can do now to get back on your feet and into recovery, like calling your therapist for a counseling session, or focusing on deep breathing or journaling when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Look over your relapse prevention plan and start implementing the strategies you laid out; this is the time to do what you’ve put on your list.
- Forgive yourself. While it’s certainly understandable if you feel discouraged or angry, the truth is that most people in recovery have experienced relapse. Recognizing that this is a lifelong healing process should make it easier to go a little easier on yourself. Instead of ruminating on all the things you did wrong, get to work doing what’s beneficial to your recovery:
- Go to support group meetings.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Get a good night’s sleep every night.
- Engage in regular physical exercise.
- Spend time with loved ones and family members.
- Read about ways to support your recovery.
- Find ways to have fun sober.
- Create new goals.
- Listen to other people’s success stories.