Coping After Relapse During Recovery

Coping After Relapse During Recovery

Reflecting on the positive outcomes of sobriety maintenance is important for individuals in addiction recovery. The preventative measures and repetition of healthy habits all support the best-case scenario of promoting long-term sobriety. The unfortunate reality is that these methods will not always succeed in helping addiction recovery patients abstain from illicit substances, and relapses will occur for most patients. Although hardly definitive, the average statistic for relapse rates for substance misuse disorders is generally estimated between 40% to 60%. This may initially sound discouraging, but the rate is very similar to those for relapses of other chronic diseases like asthma or hypertension. 

Achieving sobriety is the first step in the long process of addiction recovery. The importance of preventative measures such as exercise, ongoing therapy, meditation, and attending support meetings can not be emphasized enough. Those with substance abuse disorders have had a lifetime to create unhealthy habits, and most have only just begun making healthier lifestyle choices. 

The recovery process will be difficult as individuals attempt to unlearn old habits to create new lifestyle choices. Part of this difficulty will involve relapse for a majority of people in rehabilitation. Since a relapse occurring is likely, individuals in addiction recovery should plan for the worst-case scenario.

What Actions Should You Take If You Relapse?

First off, you need to remember that relapse is not failure. Although it may sound like semantics, it is crucial to understand that relapse is a setback and not a reflection of your failure to maintain sobriety. Any developed skill will involve a process of learning from mistakes and experiencing consequences. No matter the consequences, learning occurs through trying, failing, and then trying again. 


Addiction recovery patients should do their best to avoid the negative stigmas surrounding relapse and substance misuse. Relapsing is a natural part of the recovery process. Individuals may find themselves guilty of allowing themselves to misuse illicit substances and feed into their addictive behavioral traits. Even this mistake is hardly beyond redemption when you view addictive disorders as chronic medical illnesses. 

Here are some helpful tips on direct courses of action clients can take following a relapse:

  • Get Sober: Clients who relapse need to get sober first and foremost. Before they can even attempt to continue in their addiction recovery process, they must abstain from illicit substances and achieve sobriety. Nothing tangible can be accomplished while an individual continues to misuse illicit substances. This is why it is helpful to have a contingency plan should a relapse occur. Getting sober again during a relapse might be challenging for some. Substance misuse may only last a few days for some, while it can extend for weeks for others. 

Clients who relapse need to discuss a plan of action to regain sobriety. Depending on the severity of substance misuse, individuals may want to ask someone in their support network to hold their wallet, cash, or any banking access. A lack of monetary funds can be effective in impeding continued substance misuse. Some clients who experience chronic relapses have even gone so far as to suggest their loved ones call the police and that they be arrested if they set foot on the property while intoxicated. Jail time may sound severe, but a night in the drunk tank will force abstinence and may provide some much-needed clarity the morning after. 

A better solution would be to plan with your support network to take you to the hospital if your substance misuse becomes uncontrollable. Planning with your support network is critical as you will not be in the mindset to make such decisions after relapsing.

  • Be in the Company of Your Support Network/Attend a Meeting: Comfort is important at this stage following a relapse. You should surround yourself with family or loved ones to recover in a safe, sober, and comfortable location. The physical and emotional toll of relapsing will be substantial, and you will need time to recover from your substance misuse. You can address the topic of relapsing if you feel comfortable, but at this stage, it is not necessary to check out all the possible scenarios that may or may not have led up to your relapse. When you feel physically capable, you should attend a meeting. Being surrounded by your support network, whether family, friends, or fellow recovery peers in meetings, will help you draw strength and renew your faith in maintaining long-term sobriety. 


When it comes to meetings, the majority in attendance will also have their own stories that can help normalize your emotional response toward your relapse. These stories can inspire you to best cope with your illness.

  • Review Days Leading to Relapse: The next step in recovering from a relapse would be to consider the actions and thoughts in the days and months that led up to your relapse. You may not find a culprit or a specific trigger that set you off but taking all the necessary preventive actions — exercise, attending meetings and therapy, avoiding triggers, etc. — can help prevent relapsing. Journaling would also be recommended at this stage for better cataloging the events that led to a relapse to pinpoint potential triggers and avoid future relapse.  
  • Make a Plan with Yourself and Your Support Network: At this point, clients should begin to address a potential plan to reassert their approach toward sobriety. This could involve increasing weekly meetings or perhaps sitting down with a loved one to discuss. For those still feeling insecure in their sobriety, they may want a loved one to still restrict their access to banking. Any measures that will help maintain sobriety should be explored. In the most extreme cases, clients may even seek out inpatient services. Clients should implement an action plan to increase preventative measures for at least two weeks to a month. 
  • Try Again: Ultimately, you will have to try again. You may want to approach this stage with some training wheels initially, but getting back out there is necessary for the recovery process. You can take some consolation in knowing that now that you have fallen, you know how to get back up from relapsing.

If you struggle with your sobriety following a relapse or experience chronic relapse and continued substance misuse, then Choice House has an addiction recovery treatment program that can help. Our dual diagnosis treatment services are ideal for teaching men how to cope with the real-world consequences of relapsing by giving them the necessary skills to maintain their sobriety in the long term. These skills taught through various therapeutic modalities allow participants to begin building a new foundation of love and empathy that will stand the test of any triggered relapse. Our treatment services for coping with relapsing and promoting long-term sobriety are offered through a 90-day inpatient program, an intensive outpatient service, and residency at our sober living campus. Choice House’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains also allows us to employ a unique outdoor wilderness therapy. Men can reconnect with themselves and their peers through physical activities like kayaking, rock climbing, and hiking. We firmly believe that the lessons learned and the bonds of friendship formed will prove vital to the recovery process long after patients have left our facilities. For more information regarding Choice House addiction recovery treatment programs and facilities, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.


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