Tip #1: Managing Uncomfortable Feelings
Guilt and shame are common feelings resulting from a relapse and the first step in healing these emotions is to acknowledge them. Then, learning coping skills can decrease the intensity of these uncomfortable feelings and empower you to manage future situations.
According to Brené Brown, PhD, “Shame cannot survive being spoken and being met with empathy.” To help normalize these feelings and provide hope, it’s critical to cultivate a sober social support network with people who share honestly.
Tip#2: Planning Next Steps
If a person has returned to a state of chemical dependency after experiencing a relapse, detoxification may be the first step toward recovery. In addition to the physical dependency, the obsession and compulsion that happen with substance abuse can be immensely difficult to manage alone.
Following detox, treatment may be necessary. If that is the case, reputable facilities like First Step Recovery provide professional intervention to address each client's individual needs. First Step Recovery also places a strong emphasis on preventing future relapse by helping clients
- identify high-risk situations and triggers to use.
- learn adaptive ways to manage cravings.
- enhance motivation to sustain long-term sobriety.
- explore appropriate community resources for continuation of care to ensure accountability to in recovery.
- access Medication-Assisted Treatment options if/when appropriate.
- identify sober social supports.
Sometimes, if a relapse was short-lived and a person already has a sober support system in place (such as one cultivated through a 12-step program like AA or NA), detox and treatment may not be necessary. In this case, frequent 12-step meetings and contact with the sober supports is necessary.
Tip#3: Learning From Experience
Relapse does not simply “happen.” It’s a process that often involves maladaptive thought patterns and an inability to regulate emotions. Relapse provides a valuable opportunity to consider changes you need to make in your approach to recovery, such as:
- Staying connected: Call at least 2-3 people in your sober support network each day.
- Changing people, places and things that involve using or drinking: If you’ve been associating with old friends or family who are active in addiction, it’s time to move away from those relationships. You might even consider changing your phone number and/or social media accounts.
- Making self-compassion a priority: This is about being honest and kind with yourself, not rationalizing unhealthy behavior.
- Identifying contributing factors to relapse: In reviewing the days/weeks prior to relapse, can you recognize any of the warning signs?
- Following a routine: Include time for adequate rest, physical activity, healthy eating and enjoyment as well as recovery-related practices like attending 12-step meetings and reading relevant literature.
Above all, remember that if you experience a relapse, there is always hope as long as you have a heartbeat.
If you or a loved one need treatment for substance abuse, contact First Step Recovery today!
Author: Emily Wagner, LSW, LICDC, has been a counselor at First Step Recovery since 2015, and she has worked in the field of addiction treatment since 2013. At First Step Recovery, Emily facilitates group therapy and provides clinical interventions to clients on an individual basis. Emily has an undergraduate and master’s degree in social work from Youngstown State University. In addition to being a Licensed Social Worker and a Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor, Emily is also trained in providing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)therapy.