When someone struggling with a substance use disorder returns to the path of sobriety after a relapse, facing their addictions and co-occurring mental health issues will require honesty and a self-forgiving heart. The way forward—coping with the disappointment of relapse—will not be easy, but it is worth the effort in immeasurable ways.
Preparing yourself for the road ahead includes being realistic about the recovery process and understanding that addiction recovery is a process, not a one-time event. Triggers, traumas, and opportunities will all play a role in testing your dedication to sobriety.
Misconceptions About Recovery
Setting unrealistic expectations for your recovery process can be like setting yourself up for failure. If you think all you have to do is check off a list of tasks, you’ll be met with significant disappointment. Similar misconceptions can be harmful as you gear up for the process of recovery.
While the motivation required to stick through with your recovery plan requires significant internal strength, do not make the mistake of believing that you are alone on your journey. When you can put aside your pride long enough to ask for help, you will realize that you are far from alone, even when times are the toughest.
Prepare yourself for the ups and downs ahead as best as possible by setting realistic expectations, becoming more aware of triggers and areas needing healing, and forgiving yourself for the slip-ups that may happen. As they do, just get back on track and keep going. The path to long-term sobriety is a bumpy road, so just keep your hands on the wheel and focus on that goal.
When A Relapse Happens
Relapse is a common occurrence often caused by unrealistic expectations. If you fail to meet some of the goals you set or make a misstep, you may decide to throw in the towel. Based on an unrealistic outlook, recovery isn’t working, so you decide there is no point in continuing. Being gentle with yourself during these trying times instead can make the healing easier.
Whatever your current triggers and context, a relapse can be thought of as a pause on sobriety. This doesn’t mean recovery is over! Those in long-term recovery can tell you that relapse is just a side step, and as soon as you get back in recovery – you’re back on track.
When Coping with the Disappointment of Relapse
- Talk about it
After a relapse, feeling frustrated and disappointed in yourself is expected, but be easy on yourself. Take the time to talk about what happened and face the details of the situation. Having a support team you trust to talk with will provide a safe environment to do so.
- Write about it
When you spend time writing about your experience, you may see perspectives and details you didn’t previously. The brain can process memories and allow for greater depth of thought when writing rather than just thinking or sometimes even talking about it. Use a journal often to help process emotions, situations, and behaviors – or even just to vent.
- Focus on gratitude
Be grateful for the lessons you’ve learned thus far in your recovery journey versus focusing your thoughts on your perceived failure. Thinking about the things you are thankful for can change how the rest of your thoughts are framed. Being grateful for the little things like rain or flowers or even air is just as important to the brain and heart. Take time each day to be grateful for the good in your life, despite the presence of small setbacks.
- Learn from disappointment
Use this opportunity to learn from disappointment. Take the time to reflect on the details of your experience as you process the steps leading up to your relapse. Doing this can provide deeper context to healing the traumas associated with addiction and substance abuse.
- Refocus on recovery
While renewing your focus on recovery, remind yourself of all the reasons you sought sobriety in the first place. Accept the bumps you’ve encountered but still recognize that the goal of long-term sobriety requires you to get back up and keep going.
- Seek help
As with any other part of recovery, seeking outside help only improves your chances for success. Having a strong support team behind you, especially during those darkest hours, can literally be the difference between life and death. Just remember to always be 100 percent honest with your support team so they can help you the right way.
Coping with the disappointment of relapse can be one of the hardest parts of recovery, but The Haven’s holistic approach to patient-centered care could be exactly the supportive environment needed by you or someone you know who struggles with addiction. Our evidence-based treatment methods are helping break the cycle of addiction.