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Posted by on in Alcoholism

When the word relapse is mentioned, it can automatically bring about negative connotations. Words like failure, loser, and defeat arise. Relapse is certainly not a desirable event, but it can and does happen to people daily. Twelve-Step programs have taught us that a relapse does not have to be the end-of-the-world nor does it mean that we are doomed failures. After a relapse there are multiple things that can be learned to help build recovery in the future.

Does Relapse Equal Failure?

People relapse for hundreds of different reasons, however it all comes down to the person believing they can control their drug/alcohol usage or giving up on their sobriety. Sometimes after a relapse there is a turning point or much needed “wake up call” for somebodies recovery. Relapse does not have to be a part of your recovery, however it can occur (Click to View Common Relapse Warning Signs). Here are some positive things to consider after a relapse:

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5 Things You Can Learn After a Relapse
  • Reaffirm Your Powerlessness Over Addiction: Many times when people go back to drinking or using drugs it is because they think that they can control it ‘this time’. Perhaps they feel that a few months of sobriety, a new job, or a change of location will allow them to regain some control over their addiction. When a relapse occurs, it often smashes the idea of being able to enjoy recreational alcohol/drug use and strengthens the addicted persons need for recovery.
  • Identify Weaknesses in Your Recovery: Although a relapse may seem like a sudden slip or instantaneous mistake, it generally is a process of little things that lead up to the actual relapse. The most important thing is being able to trace back the thought patterns that lead to relapse. Did you let up on your recovery meetings? Did you stop talking to your therapist, sponsor, or friends? Have you been unwilling to take some of the more difficult actions required to stay sober?
  • Find New Ways to Strengthen Your Recovery: Just like identifying weaknesses, a relapse gives you an opportunity to learn more about strengthening your recovery. After a relapse it may be helpful to start attending more 12 step meetings than before, get more involved with local recovery, engage in service commitments or service, work more with other people in addiction, etc. Sometimes a relapse can show us just what was lacking in our recovery program.
  • Increase Your Dedication to Recovery: A bad relapse can be a huge motivator for rededicating yourself to your sobriety. An awful hangover, bad withdrawals, and the other grim realities of addiction can redouble our effort to stay clean and sober. Again, relapse is not a requirement but if it does occur, it can be a platform to rebuild your sobriety upon.
  • Preventing a Relapse in the Future: If a relapse occurs, it can be helpful to review the mental, emotional, and spiritual causes or shortcomings that lead back to alcohol and drug usage. What mental thoughts preceded the relapse? What moods were occurring when the relapse happened? Finding the answers to these questions can be helpful in preventing future relapses.

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