Experts say that relapse is part of recovery. Fortunately, it is possible to reclaim your sobriety, but you have to take steps to make it happen.

Reclaiming sobriety—the first steps

First, regroup. Forgive yourself and acknowledge that you need help to get back on the right path. The longer you continue to stay in a relapse, the more guilt and shame that will pile up, which does nothing more than perpetuate the justification that you need to keep abusing your substance of choice. You’ll feel angry and frustrated with yourself, and if you’ve had more than one relapse, you might think that it’s hopeless and that you’ll never regain and maintain sobriety. Don’t think that way!

A relapse doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, and a relapse doesn’t equal failure; it’s a detour. View your relapse as a way to identify what doesn’t work or what you shouldn’t do, whether it’s hanging out with friends from your past who still drink or do drugs or choosing not to attend support meetings. You’ve still got to learn what tools do work for you when you’re stressed, sad, or trying to deal with uncomfortable feelings.

Next, seek professional help. Return to rehab. Call your doctor; call a family member; go to the hospital. You’ll have a million reasons why treatment won’t work because it didn’t work before—but make the call anyway. There’s absolutely no reason for you to go it alone.

Finally, when you restart treatment, redouble your efforts. Whether you’ve completed inpatient treatment in the past or not, seriously consider trying it after a relapse. You’ll learn new information and tips to stay clean and sober that you might not have learned before—and even if you did, the treatment will reinforce those suggestions. Maybe you haven’t learned all your triggers yet, but more treatment will help you identify them so you can avoid them in the future.

Develop a relapse prevention plan

Setbacks happen. That doesn’t mean you’re condemning yourself to a life of chronic use and abuse. After you’ve returned to treatment—whether it’s an intensive course of outpatient treatment, detox or inpatient rehab, refresher courses, or a program that also addresses mental illness or trauma—create a relapse prevention plan.

These plans include ongoing addiction treatments designed to help you develop and build healthy coping skills, manage triggers, and make better choices. Your plan could include:

  • Working with a therapist regularly.
  • Attending group counseling sessions.
  • Attending 12-step meetings and partnering with a sponsor.
  • Learning to identify and avoid or manage high-risk situations or triggers.
  • Building a strong network of people whom you trust to support you.

Use these important tools

Other tools to help you maintain sobriety include getting regular exercise, spending time outdoors, picking up an old or trying a new hobby, and practicing mindfulness.

Exerciseoffers a positive outletfor stress and anxiety. It leads to improved physical and mental health, a sense of accomplishment, and increased confidence.

The natural world invites you to connect with the earth—it brings a feeling of peace, tranquility, and balance to the often-hectic lives we lead. Many studieshave proven that outdoor therapy heals the body, mind, and spirit.

Hobbies provide pleasure, satisfaction, positive distractions, and fun. They can include physical or mental activities, like reading and writing, crafting, building collections, gardening, and so much more. The perfect solution to boredom, they fill the time originally claimed by drugs or alcohol.

Mindfulness separates experience from thoughts and judgments. It’s a tool that provides a counterpoint for addictive behaviors by giving you balance. It can even physically rewire your brain by changing neural pathways.

Stay the course

You must decide for yourself whether you want to continue your journey to recovery. No one else—not your friends, family, or doctors—can make that decision for you. It’s challenging, but you’ve been sober before, so you know it’s possible for you. Set a goal for each day to avoid alcohol or drugs for one 24-hour period. Then, set that same goal for the next day—and the next.

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Author: Constance Ray

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