While it can be deeply frustrating, relapse is a normal part of the recovery journey, and it doesn’t mean that treatment has failed. If you have recently experienced a relapse, it is essential to remember that you have nothing to be ashamed of, and this doesn’t mean that you won’t still be able to enjoy a long-lasting recovery in the future. It is simply a stumbling block along the way, and it can be overcome. You can move on from relapse by identifying what factors played into it, working with a substance use counselor to make any necessary changes to your treatment plan, and implementing prevention strategies to avoid recurrence.
Identifying the Root Causes of Relapse
There are many reasons why a relapse may occur. Some people might be able to pinpoint the exact reason that caused them to pick up alcohol or drugs again, while others may need some guidance to help them reflect and consider what event/events may have led up to this point. Some questions you may ask yourself to help determine the root causes include:
- Did you experience a traumatic situation such as the loss of a loved one, sudden unemployment, or some type of abuse?
- Did you get so busy that you stopped making your recovery a priority?
- Did you start skipping support group meetings or therapy sessions?
- Did you spend time with someone who triggered your relapse or pressured you to engage in drug or alcohol use?
- Are you under a lot of stress in your personal or professional life?
- Did you not have a concrete plan going into life in recovery?
- Do you believe you are struggling with a mental health disorder that you haven’t spoken with a doctor about yet?
- Did you experience the effects of withdrawal?
- Did you simply lose motivation in maintaining your sobriety?
Making the Necessary Changes to Your Treatment Plan
Once you have identified the factors that may have played into your relapse, you can begin to work with your doctor or substance use counselor to make the necessary changes to your treatment. Some examples of what these changes could include:
- Finding a support group that is a better fit for you or attending meetings more frequently.
- Identifying better ways to combat the stress in your life, such as through physical exercise, yoga, mediation, or journaling.
- Placing distance between yourself and the people who may be intentionally or unintentionally threatening your recovery.
- Speaking with a counselor regularly to work through your emotions and identify any possible triggers that could be threatening your recovery.
- Learning to avoid places/environments where you experience temptation.
- Going through in-patient treatment where your withdrawal symptoms can be properly managed.
- Finding a more stable and secure living environment.
- Seeking treatment for a mental health condition that might not have been diagnosed yes, for example, anxiety, depression, PTSD, or bipolar disorder.
Preventing Another Relapse
Once you have worked with your counselor to discuss what changes should be made to your treatment plan, you can also practice relapse prevention strategies to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Some examples of this include:
1.) Learning to practice good self-care regularly. What self-care means can be different from person to person. In general, it means taking care of your physical health by eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly. It also means taking care of your mental health, whether that be through meditation, journaling, reading a good book, spending time away from social media, or simply taking the time to share coffee with a friend.
2.) Have an emergency list of people to call the next time you feel tempted to engage in substance use. This could be your sponsor, a therapist, or a trusted friend that you can rely on to help talk you through what you’re going through and make the right decision for your recovery journey.
3.)Practice grounding techniques. For some people, anxiety can feel like things are spinning out of control. They may feel tempted to act rashly and turn to substance use to cope. Instead, try to focus on your surroundings by acknowledging what you can hear, smell, taste, and see. This can help you shift your perspective and calm down.
4.) Work on identifying what your triggers are. This could be stress or a specific person or place, or situation.
5.) Learn how to recognize when your motivation is wavering. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re thinking about old substance use habits, feeling like you want to skip a support group meeting, or are considering giving into cravings, ensure that you seek help immediately.
Relapse is nothing to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t mean that treatment has failed. It is simply part of the journey and a stumbling block to overcome. If you have experienced a relapse, the first thing you’ll want to do is sit down with your therapist or doctor and determine the root cause of the relapse. It could be a particularly traumatic event, an undiagnosed mental health disorder, or simply a loss of motivation. Once the root cause has been determined, you and the medical profession can begin to implement any necessary changes to your treatment plan. This may include learning new ways to cope with stress, finding a support group that betters fits your needs or finding a more stable living environment. If you’re struggling with your mental health, our team at Achieve Concierge can help. Call (858) 221-0344 today to learn more.