So you’ve been doing the work. Going to meetings, attending aftercare, and working the steps. You’re finally putting some time between you and the last time you picked up alcohol or drugs. Then all of a sudden, without warning—BAM—you’re using or drinking again. So what went wrong? Everything was going so well and out of nowhere, you were lured back to the self-destructive substances that almost ruined your life. But was it REALLY out of nowhere, or was there something you may have missed along the way?
Part of dealing with a relapse is determining why it happened so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes again. Sometimes the reasons are more obvious. Hanging with the wrong crowd, complacency, and neglecting your program, are all common mistakes. It can also be something that had gone un-addressed that you may not even have been aware of. Underlying issues can take time to uncover and can have a major impact, even subconsciously.
Regardless of the reasons for your relapse, the most important thing is that you don’t let it consume you. Relapse can be an extremely frustrating and humiliating experience. Feeling guilty and shameful typically accompany relapse. Afterward, you may even feel like a failure, especially after all the hard work you’ve put into your recovery. These feelings are normal at this stage and shouldn’t be ignored. However, once you acknowledge these feelings, it’s important to remember not to live in them. If you allow guilt, shame, and failure to control your life, it’s next to impossible to stay sober.
So how do you pick yourself back up after a relapse? Here are some practical suggestions for overcoming feelings of guilt and shame after a relapse.
1. Take responsibility for your actions
It’s very tempting after a relapse to point fingers and play the blame game. It’s this person’s fault. It’s that person’s fault. It’s ALL my fault. Extremes like this should be completely avoided. Even if there is a culprit, it won’t help you move past the relapse. Taking responsibility for your actions is important, but this doesn’t mean living in self-pity or beating yourself up. After a relapse, accept responsibility for what you’ve done and move on. Look for support from friends and family, and utilize your support groups.
2. Allow yourself to move on
Mistakes are a part of life. We all make them. It’s how we bounce back from these mistakes that define us, not the mistakes themselves. Remind yourself about all the hard work that you’ve put into your recovery up to this point. Encouragement from family members, friends, and sober supports, will help you get back on the right path. Writing yourself a letter that reminds you of all your successes up to this point, may also help in shaking the associated feelings of shame.
3. Let go
Relapse after a period of sobriety can leave you with a lot to digest. There are typically intense feelings that arise, and letting go of them is easier said than done. Seeking additional help after a relapse is nothing to be ashamed of. An addiction treatment program can be a great way to resolve intense feelings in a safe environment. Most substance abuse treatment centers have specific relapse prevention groups along with individual therapy to help process a relapse.
4. Stop the “Black and White” thinking
Addiction recovery doesn’t follow any specific formula, in fact, everyone’s path is different. Relapse doesn’t require falling back into the pattern of drug abuse. A slip also doesn’t mean you have to “start over”. At worst it should be only a few steps backward in your quest for long term sobriety. If you find yourself in this all or nothing type of thinking, be sure to remind yourself that this can be only a minor setback.
Getting over the shame of relapse is more than achievable, it’s necessary. With the right support and actions, relapse may even be the driving force that ultimately keeps you sober. Royal Life Centers is here to provide the support and services needed to effectively face relapse. We offer a full medical detox as well as complete aftercare services. We get to the root of the problem, working together with our guests to create personalized treatment plans. Relapse may be a part of your story but doesn’t have to be the end.
Royal Life Centers addiction specialists are available to talk 24/7. Please don’t hesitate to contact us anytime at (877)-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. We’re here to help, Because We Care.