The Steps to Handling a Drug Relapse
Anyone who has worked hard to make progress on the road to recovery from drug or alcohol addiction can understand how frustrating it would be to experience a relapse. Similarly, avoiding a relapse is often enormously difficult to do. If you or a loved one is trying to get sober after living as an addict, it is important to know what to do to handle a relapse in the event that one happens, because the emotional upheaval that often comes with backsliding can be utterly devastating. The website Narconon Reviews recently carried a story of a woman named A.M. who started using drugs at the age of 15, had been to rehab twice by the time she was 17 years old, and continued to use drugs into her early 20s before quitting. She then settled into a normal life and had two children, but then she suffered a relapse.
In looking back on it, she now recognizes that, while she had gotten over the symptoms of withdrawal, she had not yet done anything to address the factors that originally drove her to use drugs. Relapsing after thinking that she had stably recovered knocked her off her feet, and she hit rock bottom. Soon, her mother took away the kids for their own safety, and A.M. was left with nothing but her drug addiction. Finally, she found Narconon, and since completing the program she has achieved the stable recovery that she was hoping for all along. Fortunately, not everyone who suffers a relapse has to hit rock bottom and lose everything. There are steps that you can take to help yourself or a loved one after a relapse:
- Acknowledge that mistakes do happen. By some estimates, more than 90% of those who are trying to recover from addiction suffer a relapse on their way to finally achieving lasting sobriety.
- Don’t beat yourself up too much. It is too easy to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Sure, it would have been better if you hadn’t relapsed, but now that it has happened you won’t make things any better by being critical of yourself.
- Realize that your recovery isn’t over. Recovery from addiction is not like a boardgame where if you land on the wrong square you have to go back to the beginning. You can still build on the gains you have made and turn this into a learning experience, rather than treating it like a failure.
- Examine what actually happened. The relapse was not simply the moment that you took a drink or used drugs; it began before that. What was going on? Were you with someone else who was using? Was another person making you feel insecure? Were you overwhelmed with stress? Had you done something that you felt ashamed of?
- Decide how you will avoid such situations in the future. Maybe you need to stop hanging out with a certain person, perhaps you need to reorganize your schedule so you don’t feel so much stress, or maybe there is something that you need to refrain from doing so that you won’t feel remorse that compels you to use drugs or alcohol.
Get Help After a Relapse
Taking the above steps can serve to address the situation of most relatively minor cases of relapse, but they won’t be enough for every situation. The most important thing you can do after a relapse is to get help if you need it. This may be as simple as talking to a friend or family member who will listen to you without judging or getting upset but will simply let you talk. Alternatively, you may need to do what A.M. did by checking into rehab. The key is not to wait as long as she did. You could put it off and try to handle the relapse on your own, but it might be a battle that is too challenging for you to fight on your own. As soon as you feel yourself losing control of your sobriety, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
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