How to Deal with a Drug Relapse
Battling drug abuse and addiction is an all-consuming effort, especially in the earlier stages of recovery.
Many individuals are so relieved and excited after fighting that initial battle and getting clean for the first time, that they assume they have seen the last and the worst of their problem.
However, this is often not the case, and even when they have had successful treatment and recovery, a person can still undergo one or numerous relapses on their road to and through recovery.
Relapses are most likely to happen in the early days of your recovery – particularly the first 30 days after getting clean. This is why it’s so crucial to have professional support during this time, to help you stay on the wagon. With long-term help and support, a patient is far more likely to surpass those difficult first days and hopefully avoid a relapse early on.
For many, relapse can catch them off-guard, and if they don’t reach out for help, it can plunge them into deeper levels of shame and guilt than they had with the initial addiction.
This is why it is so important to understand the truth and the lies about relapses so that those struggling with it can move past it and get back on the road to recovery.
As you deal with the reality of your relapse, here are some important things to keep in mind that will allow you to have a better mindset.
You’re Not Alone
If you or a loved one are going through a relapse after recovering from a drug addiction, the first thing that you need to know and believe is that you are not alone.
It is a misconception to think a relapse means failure or to think that you are the only one who got free only to get caught again.
While it is a frustrating reality, relapse is a common part of the recovery process.
It does not mean you have failed.
It does not mean that you don’t want freedom badly enough.
It does not mean that you won’t get free, or that you are that you are doomed to keep relapsing.
You are not alone in the relapse experience, and most who have gotten free from drug abuse went through this step themselves.
Use it as an opportunity to learn more about you, about what triggers you encountered that led to the relapse, and how you can avoid them in the future.
You can allow the relapse to grow you instead of sink you.
Have a Long-Haul Perspective
It is also important for a recovering drug addict to understand that recovery is a journey as much as it is a destination.
No one arrives at recovery quickly. It is a long process, and there will be stumbling places along the way. It doesn’t mean you are not still on the road to recovery or that you won’t reach your destination. It just means you may have to change a few things, get some more help, or simply persevere at taking the right steps forward.
Those who embrace the fact that recovery requires an “in it for the long-haul” perspective are much more likely to recover from a relapse and to experience fewer of them, as they are more on their guard against stumbling blocks than those who assume the process will be quick and trouble-free after an initial success.
With the right mindset of understanding that you are not the only one who has experienced a relapse and that it is just a part of your road to successful recovery and something you can learn from, you can then begin to take other steps to help you deal with and overcome it.
One of the first steps you should take is reaching out to trusted loved ones and a positive support network.
The shame of a relapse will often make people afraid to reach out and admit the relapse to those who can love and support them through it. But this is the exact opposite of what is best for you.
Be honest with your support group and with your loved ones and allow them to encourage you and help give you strength and motivation to get back on your feet and moving in the right direction. No one can succeed on this road alone.
Reflect and Respond
Besides putting on the right mindset and reaching out for support, it is also important that you use your relapse as an opportunity to reflect and strategize for the future.
Immediately reflect on the events that led up to and triggered your relapse. Were you with certain people or in a particular setting. Did something specifically happen or trigger certain emotions? Did a hearing a song, seeing a picture, or any other thing, regardless of how seemingly small, re-awaken the desire for the drug and lead you to give in?
Make note of it and plan for that situation or thing in the future. Create a strategy of how to either avoid that person/situation/thing or how to manage it differently next time.
The more aware you are of what brought your relapse on, the better you can avoid or overcome the situation in the future.
Pursue Holistic Treatment
One of the most important things you can do for yourself as a part of recovery and responding to a relapse is to treat more than the addiction.
Addictions are not isolated problems – they involve psychological, social, and biological factors. There are almost always causes for the addiction that have nothing to do with the substance itself, but some other life-factor.
Pursuing a holistic approach to your recovery—like starting a healthier diet, exercising, getting help and support for any psychological disorders, such as anxiety or depression, and starting a new hobby to keep you occupied—can help you recover from a relapse.
The SOBA College Recovery Addiction Treatment Center in New Jersey specializes in this holistic approach to recovery. If you need help getting back on the road to recovery after a relapse, you can reach out to SOBA for the support to keep you moving forward to freedom.