Relapse Does Not Mean Failure

Relapse. It’s a scary word for those who struggle with addiction and are now sober. Relapse may even have become equated with failure in our minds. This can cause some serious problems in our recovery. Why? Well for starters, if we believe that relapse is us failing in our sobriety what is likely to happen if we do have a slip? For most of us, this leads to what I like to call “to heck with it” thinking.  For example, say you have a beer, that next thought if you are thinking this was is likely to be something like “well, I’ve already blown it why not have more? I’ve already messed up anyway”. In other words, that relapse is probably going to continue and when it does finally end, you are left with all these feelings of guilt and shame to deal with. In other words, not this probably isn’t going to be a plan that works well for us.

So, how can we look at the concept of relapse in a way that is more likely to work for us? What I find to be most helpful is to look at relapse not as a good thing, but to acknowledge that it happens (often) for people struggling with addiction and most importantly, to look at it as an opportunity to learn when it happens rather than a failure. This means when a relapse does happen rather than beating ourselves up, it’s important to ask ourselves some key questions. Questions such as: “what was going on for me before I relapsed?” “what was I feeling before the relapse happened?” “what could I do to get through that situation without drinking or using next time it comes up?” “what wasn’t I doing before the relapse that might be helpful to add to my relapse prevention plan?” and “what was I doing that worked that I have stopped doing?”. There are certainly other questions that can be helpful as well but these questions are a great place to get started. Sometimes it is helpful to have someone who can help us walk through these questions and brainstorm. It may be a sponsor, counselor, or trusted friend but having that support can be very helpful. Just keep in mind that no matter how you choose to go about it, asking ourselves these questions can help us learn from the relapse and build a stronger recovery. That’s something beating ourselves up for “failing” can never accomplish.  

Questions about relapse or anything related to sobriety? Feel free to get in touch with me!