What to Do After a Relapse
If someone you know has suffered a relapse back to alcohol or drugs, there’s a good chance they are feeling down on themselves. They may be unsure of how to proceed and lack confidence in their ability to move forward. Fortunately, this is a common occurrence and not an indicator of failure. In terms of overall recovery, what matters most is what they do after the incident, to prevent an escalation in substance use. Here are some tips that can make all the difference.
The first thing they need to do is own what happened and admit they slipped up. This can be hard to accept, but they won’t be able to help themselves if they are unwilling to admit this much. They must understand that while they are the only person who controls their behavior, they are still not in control of their alcoholism or drug addiction. It’s up to them to take responsibility for anything they have done and make a commitment to not use drugs again. It’s easy to give up. Their power lies in taking things one day, or even one hour, at a time, making short commitments to avoid using.
When a major happens in a person’s life, sometimes their reaction creates as much of an impact as the actual event. The same applies to a relapse. It’s far too easy to think of relapsing as a colossal personal failure, when it’s really no more than a mistake. The harm in thinking this way is that is can cause a person to question why they’re bothering to fight this problem in the first place. If they think the situation is hopeless, they might wonder why they shouldn’t just keep using. Whereas, if they view it as the mere slip-up that it is, they’re more likely to realize that they can learn from the experience and move forward.
Take Time to Reflect
It’s safe to say that several factors likely influenced their behavior. Sometimes these “triggers” are environmental, such as when they’re around people, places, or situations that remind them of their substance use. Some environmental triggers may be more subtle than others, which is why it’s important for them to think really hard about what may have contributed.Spending time around the wrong people is one of the most common triggers. Even just putting off responsibilities can lead to feeling overwhelmed, which can make someone turn to drugs for comfort. The same can happen if they give in to negative self-talk that can deceive them into thinking they’re a lost cause. Have they been skipping meetings? Slacking off with recovery efforts is one of the worst things a person can do.
If they are having trouble identifying their triggers, they should talk to a substance abuse counselor. The counselor can walk them through each area of their life, as well as the events of the day in question. Once the problem areas have been pinpointed, their counselor can help them find more appropriate ways to deal with these situations.
A relapse is one of the biggest indicators that the person hasn’t received as much help as they need. Each person responds differently to treatment and has different needs. They should be reaching out for additional support as soon as the incident occurs, whether through family and friends, a sponsor, or a professional counselor. Their job is to help them return their focus to sobriety, but it’s up to the person with the problem to ask for their help when these things happen. They must accept that they can’t handle this alone.
Make the Needed Changes
Sometimes a good stumble can help point out what needs to happen for someone to achieve a full recovery. In the beginning, they won’t be able to see the entire path ahead. It’s often when they begin to stumble that the full extent of their recovery needs becomes clear. That’s when they will figure out their triggers and warning signs, which can help them develop better coping skills. They may even identify things they have been doing that haven’t worked.For example, they may have attended a 30 day detox program, when they actually needed a longer one. They may discover new therapy approaches that are different from the ones used in their initial treatment. If a new plan or approach is in order, this is the time for them to speak to their therapist and make it happen.
Create Better Habits
This is also the time to work on creating some better habits. Old habits may be tied to the substance abuse problem and their best bet is to replace those with positive lifestyle adjustments. Exercise is one of the best ways to begin, as it will help them feel better both physically and mentally. The sense of accomplishment alone is often enough to boost their confidence in their ability to push through resistance.If they’re going to exercise, they’re going to have to eat healthier foods, in order to get the proper nutritional support. They’re also going to need rest, so they need to make sure that getting a full night’s sleep is also a priority. Keep in mind that chronic fatigue has led many to abuse drugs. They might also consider taking up yoga or meditation, since these are both activities that can provide an inner sense of peace. This can make it easier for them to manage their emotions, especially on tough days.
Return to Treatment
If all else fails, they may have to return to treatment. While it may seem like a disappointing course of action, keep in mind that some people have to return several times for detox. Whatever the case may be, the patient’s goal should be to get better at all costs, rather than by cutting corners. They have made a choice and a commitment to live the rest of their life without the burden of substance abuse and like it or not, that entails getting up again, each time they fall.Recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction is an ongoing process, but with some determination, they will get better. There will probably be some stumbles along the way, but they will not be the first to go down this road. What’s important for the individual in recovery to know is that they can beat this and go on with their life, provided they respond to their relapse in the proper way.
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