What To Do After a Relapse: 5 Step Guide

What To Do After a Relapse: 5 Step Guide

Sadly, experiencing relapse is a common part of the recovery journey for many individuals living with a drug or alcohol addiction.

It’s a moment that can feel like a significant step in the wrong direction, and it can come with negative feelings of guilt, shame, and discouragement. But, at a time like this, it’s incredibly important to recognise that relapse is not a sign of failure but, instead, sometimes just part of the journey.


What to Do After a Relapse

Recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is rarely straightforward, and it does often involve going through challenges, which you can deal with as and when they happen.

If you or someone you care about has experienced a relapse, this 5-step guide is designed to help you understand what you can do next to get back on the right track and prevent a future relapse from happening.

Step 1: Acknowledge and Accept Your Feelings

Although this one is easier said than done, the first step after a physical relapse is to acknowledge and accept your feelings without judgment.

It’s completely normal to experience intense negative emotions and feel frustrated about what has happened. These feelings are valid, but believe us when we say that they don’t define you or your journey. By acknowledging them, you can begin the process of moving forward from this.

It’s also important to remember that recovery from substance abuse is a process that requires patience and self-compassion. Allow yourself to feel these emotions, understand them, and then use them as a stepping stone to get back on track.

Step 2: Reach Out to Your Support System

Isolation can be a significant trigger for relapse, and it’s incredibly important not to go through this time alone.

Reach out to supportive friends, family members, or a professional who really understands the journey of recovery from alcohol or drug use.

Joining a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or a local recovery community, can also provide invaluable support, as you’ll be able to talk to people who have faced similar challenges.

These bonds can surround you with empathy, understanding, and encouragement, offering the compassionate support needed to heal and move forward in your recovery journey.

We can’t stress how normal it is to feel hopeless after something like this. But pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and connecting with people who have stood where you are will help you realise that it is possible to recover from what you’re going through.

Step 3: Think About What Led to the Physical Relapse

Try to understand what led to the physical relapse. Whatever the factors that contributed to your relapse are, being honest with yourself and really grasping what it was that caused it can help in preventing future occurrences.

Reflecting on what happened is not about placing blame on yourself. It’s about gaining clarity into the triggers and circumstances that led to the setback.

If you’re struggling to self-reflect, it might be helpful to consider the following questions:

  • Were there specific stressors or emotions that contributed to the relapse?
  • Were there warning signs that were overlooked?
  • Did you expose yourself to an environment or situation that felt triggering to you? And if so, what was it about that environment or situation that made you feel this way?

By identifying these factors, you can develop strategies to manage them more effectively in the future.

Step 4: Revise Your Addiction Relapse Prevention Plan

Based on how you feel about the physical relapse, it might be time to revise your recovery plan to remove what isn’t working for you and incorporate new strategies and support systems.

This might include setting up more frequent check-ins with a professional, attending additional support group meetings, or implementing new, coping skills and mechanisms for dealing with stress and triggers.

It’s also a good time to re-evaluate your goals and milestones in recovery. You might feel it’s worth making adjustments as needed to ensure they are realistic and achievable so that your relapse prevention plan truly reflects your personal journey with sobriety.

Step 5: Forgive and Look After Yourself

This might feel tough, but try to forgive and look after yourself after something like this happens.

Your progress isn’t gone – this is just a slight hiccup in the road. That’s all. As long as you’re dedicated to getting back on track, this time in your life will feel minor when you put it into the perspective of a lifelong recovery process.

Here are some steps to help you navigate this period with self-care and compassion:

  • After a relapse, your body may undergo stress, including withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to focus on nourishing your body with healthy foods, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and, if possible, engaging in gentle physical activity. These actions can help your body recover and improve your mood.
  • If you feel like you need a break and to rest, then do that. The key here is to remove any expectation or pressure you’re likely putting on yourself right now to be 100% again. This isn’t realistic – take it at your own pace, whatever that means to you.
  • We talk about this a lot on our blog page, but practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga can help centre your thoughts and reduce feelings of anxiety or stress. These activities encourage a sense of peace and can help you regain focus on your recovery journey.
  • Focus on setting realistic goals for your recovery. For example, it might be useful to try journaling, as you’ll be able to document any small steps you take that lead to big changes over time.


Reach Out for Support Today

Experiencing a physical relapse can be a challenging and disheartening part of the recovery process, but it’s important to remember that you can move on from it. What you do after is what matters the most.

If you need help with alcohol or drug abuse, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly today. We’ve helped many who have been in your position to get back in control of their recovery plan and process. And, if you feel it’s necessary, our team can also help you find alcohol or drug addiction treatment options that match your unique needs and requirements.

For more information about how we can help you today, contact us through our free phone line at 0800 470 0382.