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What to Do After a Relapse

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

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A relapse is when you return to using drugs and/or alcohol after a period of sobriety. If you’ve ever relapsed, you may be familiar with the feelings of shame and guilt associated with it. These feelings, along with others, can make it difficult to bounce back. It is important to remind yourself that relapsing does not mean you failed. What matters is how you respond to the relapse. Once you relapse, it is important to try to view it as a mistake you can learn from instead of allowing this incident to deter your sobriety altogether. Putting in the effort after you relapse to get back on track with your recovery. That being said, a relapse is only a part of the learning process if you recognize the mistake and use it to inform your recovery, not if you continue using. Recovery is a lifelong journey and there will be bumps in the road, it is just important to learn how to deal with them. This blog will suggest some ways to deal with a relapse after it happens.

How to Deal With a Relapse in Recovery

Getting back on track with your recovery can feel incredibly overwhelming after a relapse and it can be hard to decide where to start. Here are some steps to take to help you move forward with your sobriety after a relapse.

Stop using as soon as possible

Do not go on a bender simply because you already used. Continuing to use will make it much harder to stop. Recognizing that you slipped up and choosing to stop your use immediately will best set you up to get back on track with your recovery. Don’t use your relapse as an excuse to continue using drugs or alcohol.

Do not get stuck in the past

A relapse can feel like a step backward, however, relapses are common. Recognizing that you’ve made a mistake and moving forward in your recovery is essential in getting back on track after a relapse. Make sure to set realistic goals and a plan that can help prevent a relapse in the future instead of focusing on the relapse that has already happened. Remember, you cannot change the past but you can better prepare for the future.

Reach out for support

After a relapse, it can be very helpful to reach out for support. Contacting a sponsor or recovery coach can help you take accountability for your relapse and make a plan to move forward. This is an important step in getting back on track because it allows you to own up to your mistake and move forward, opposed to allowing feelings of shame and guilt to hold you back in your recovery.

Go back to treatment

If you find it too hard to return to recovery on your own, you may want to consider returning to treatment. Sometimes relapses indicate that your current recovery plan may need to be altered. Treatment centers can assist you in developing a treatment plan that will better safeguard your sobriety. If you are considering returning to treatment, do not view this as a failure, but instead, look at it as a continued commitment to getting and staying sober.

Make changes necessary to maintain your sobriety

Try your best to make your relapse serve a purpose. Use your relapse to inform your recovery and make necessary changes. For example, if you realized a specific trigger may have prompted your relapse, create a plan to cope with or avoid that trigger in the future. Allow your relapse to inform your recovery plan to best equipped you to stay sober long-term.

Forgive yourself

It is common to feel shame and guilt following a relapse, however, these feelings will not help you get back on track with your recovery. These emotions will only weigh you down and make it more likely you relapse again. By forgiving yourself, you give yourself the freedom to move forward and learn from your relapse. If you find it hard to forgive yourself, try this approach:

  1. Acknowledge the relapse
  2. Make changes
  3. Let go of your negative emotions about the relapse

Redefining Fun in Recovery With Design for Recovery

Design for Recovery, a sober living house in Los Angeles, offers support to those who have experienced relapse in their journey towards sobriety. With the help of Design for Recovery’s residents and their comprehensive recovery program, individuals can learn from their experiences and move forward towards lasting recovery. At Design for Recovery, residents can benefit from one-on-one mentoring, weekly house gatherings, employment support, money management assistance, family outreach, and a foundation rooted in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. By participating in these programs and utilizing the resources available, residents can develop the necessary skills and tools to thrive in society and rebuild their lives in sobriety. Design for Recovery provides a safe and supportive space to help individuals overcome their triggers and build a solid support system. Whether you’re struggling with addiction or seeking help after relapse, Design for Recovery can help you get back on track towards lasting sobriety.


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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