So You Relapsed – Now What?

During recovery from an addiction of any kind, the threat of relapse is always present. While relapse prevention strategies are used to help instill the necessary coping skills during these difficult times, relapse as a whole is still a common occurrence through recovery. It is unfortunate, but relapses happen.  However, when one occurs, it is important to get an idea of what to do next.

The Perpetual First Step: Breathe

Before making any decisions on how to progress and work through a relapse, it is important to take a step back and take a breath. Relapses can happen for several reasons, and their presence can indicate a myriad of other stresses that may be going on in someone’s life. Being able to address one’s own life and environment critically takes a lot of clarity and thought, so taking a breath to recollect oneself can help someone in determining the source of why these particular urges led to a relapse. The process of addressing a relapse and developing a plan takes time and energy.


Before someone can begin planning out how they will address the relapse on a personal level, it is important to detox. Just like when someone was beginning their recovery, it is important to remove all traces of a substance from someone’s body in order to create a plan in a thoughtful, sober way. Depending on the nature of the relapse, this step can still be very difficult. After all, giving the body a taste of what it thinks it wants can increase cravings all over again. Going through a dedicated detox process can help someone ensure that the relapse doesn’t continue to develop over time, and instead, help each person get their grasp on the situation once again and begin to move forward.

A Relapse Doesn’t Mean The End

Relapses can often come with a good degree of shame and guilt. However, experiencing a relapse doesn’t mean that someone has failed in any way. While relapses can be difficult, they don’t mean that someone is beyond help, or has no chance of recovery. Recovery is a long and difficult process that comes with its own peaks and dips, and is never a straight line. Yet it is still possible for anyone to recover from addiction. Going through relapse isn’t an indicator that someone is failing; rather, it means there needs to be an adjustment in the way that someone is approaching their recovery. It can be that someone needs to focus in on a couple of different skills a little more, or that they need to make a change in their living or social environment.

Work Together and Ask Questions

Once someone has taken a step back and detoxed their body, it is time to look for the root of the relapse. Urges can seem more intense where there are other stressful factors acting all in unison. There are a number of questions that someone can ask themselves, or address with their loved ones, support systems, or professionals:

  • Have there been any major stresses lately? Perhaps any significant life changes, such as starting a new career?
  • Has this person recently found any new friends or social circles that they are spending time with that may not be conducive to the recovery process?
  • Has the person in recovery been confronting their triggers or going to places again that may have triggering attributes for them?
  • How much time has this person been giving themselves for self-care?

All of these different factors can help someone identify why a certain instance may have developed into a relapse, or what factors may have compromised their usual coping mechanisms. Identifying the changes in one’s life around the time of a relapse can help inform them of the changes they need to make on a personal or environmental level, as well as what can be added to their relapse prevention plan in order to ensure that those factors don’t further develop in the future.

Deciding Where to Start

Just because someone has experienced a relapse doesn’t mean they will have to completely start over in their recovery journey. The skills they have learned up to this point are still important, and the implementation of these skills should still be celebrated. Instead of viewing relapse negatively, it is a time to consider how one can adjust their recovery and identify any additional approaches they should be taking in order to broaden their skills. Depending on the nature and intensity of the relapse, it may be necessary for someone to return to living in a sober home. For others, attending outpatient treatment more frequently may be needed. Others may look to other, alternative models of therapy to try something new, such as equine therapy or media therapy. Just as each person’s journey to recovery is going to look different, they will also have very different starting points after a relapse. However, regardless of where someone chooses to adjust their therapy, it is important that each person stays motivated and doesn’t give up on themselves and their recovery. Relapses are complicated and involve a large number of different factors. There are always new ways to approach someone’s therapy and recovery, and thus there is always hope for the future. Nobody is beyond recovery, and relapses can be a signal that there just needs to be a slight adjustment to how someone is approaching their ongoing sobriety.

Relapse is a difficult time, but it doesn’t mean that someone is beyond recovery. In fact, learning and growing after a relapse can ultimately strengthen one’s recovery. The programs available at Emerge Recovery are designed to address the individual needs of each person and help them to practice the skills needed to address relapse and succeed in recovery. Our unique approach to group therapy, as well as our use of equine therapy can help each person better understand the various paths through recovery, as well as provide new and different ways to address each topic, depending on the needs of each person. To learn more about the programs we offer, call 888.273.8624 today to speak to a professional, or schedule a no-cost, 30-minute consultation to see how Emerge Recovery can help you and your individual needs. Do not give up — we are here to help.

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I’m here to help you get sober and stay sober. We’ll uncover what’s keeping you sick and why you’re stuck in the same cycle. Parts of you are begging to be healed but you can’t do it alone. Emerge Recovery is the first step toward learning to navigate and thrive in a life free from substances.

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