Get Help Now - Confidential & Free Phone icon800-671-4304
Info iconWho Answers?

3 Things You Must Do Following an Addiction Relapse

If you’ve relapsed at least one time after deciding to get sober, it’s important that you understand that relapse affects between 40 and 60% of everyone recovering from addiction. Following an addiction relapse, it’s not uncommon for you to experience a range of negative emotions including guilt, regret, and panic. But relapse is not a failure, and is actually way more common than you may think. Knowing what to do after a relapse can help you feel more confident about your recovery, and allow you to stay sober for a longer period of time this next time around — hopefully indefinitely.

Here’s what you need to know about the statistics surrounding addiction relapse, along with steps you can take to build a solid relapse prevention plan that works best for you.

How Common is Relapse?

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease — meaning addiction has relapse rates just like any other persistent, long-lasting chronic health condition. In fact, drug addiction relapse rates are even lower than those for asthma and high blood pressure.

Drug addiction relapse rates fall between 40 and 60%, while relapse rates for asthma and hypertension range between 50 and 70%.

Relapse rates for type 1 diabetes are slightly lower at between 30 and 50%.

Though addiction relapse is common, the stigma that continues to surround addiction tends to shed a negative light on relapse, and make it seem like a failure. But relapse is NOT a failure, and only indicates you need additional or different treatments that work better at helping you stay sober.

Common causes of addiction relapse include stress, mental illness, and access to drugs and alcohol in your environment. A top key to overcoming addiction is knowing what causes you to relapse so you can avoid your triggers or manage them better in the future.

3 Things You Must Do Following an Addiction Relapse

After you relapse, accept that you’ve veered off course, and make plans to resume your recovery as soon as possible. Delaying your recovery may only make you feel worse, and leaves the door open to another relapse and further problems with dependence and addiction.

Have you recently experienced an addiction relapse? Here’s what to do after a relapse that can get you back on track with recovery.

Take Responsibility Without Negative Self-Talk

It’s natural for those who relapse to be hard on themselves and feel bad about returning to drugs and alcohol. But if you relapse, understand that you are not to entirely to blame since addiction is a chronic disease associated with a high relapse risk. Rather than be overly hard on yourself, view your relapse as a positive learning experience that makes you stronger for the next time you might face this trigger.

Acknowledge to yourself that you are still in recovery, and that there are still things you must learn before you can successfully achieve lifelong sobriety. Be responsible and seek treatment so you can learn new strategies for managing your triggers. At the same time, forgive yourself for your relapse, and understand you’re just like countless others who are striving for a healthier, happier lifestyle while battling addiction at the same time.

Take Action

After taking responsibility for your relapse, your next step is to confide in your support team about your relapse. Your support team may be comprised of people who are close to you or who were there to help you throughout addiction recovery, such as your AA or NA sponsor, your spouse, or the person who initially helped you get treatment. These people can steer you back toward sobriety without passing judgment, and foster a safe, supportive environment that promotes sober, healthy living.

Next, make arrangements to get help in the form of professional addiction treatment, whether it means going through drug detox at a rehab center, attending 12-step support group meetings, or receiving individual and group therapy.

Call our 24/7 confidential helpline to discuss all your options with an experienced addiction counselor.

Who Answers?

Figure Out What Needs to Change

When you view your relapse as a learning experience, it can be easier for you identify certain lifestyle changes you can make to help you stay sober. For instance, if you relapsed after spending an afternoon with a friend you used to party with, consider severing ties with your friend and other negative influences encouraging you to use drugs and alcohol.

Changing your environment can be an effective way to lower your risk for relapse, since environment is a top risk factor for addiction. Certain environments can trigger drug and alcohol use, and make you more vulnerable to addiction and relapse. Examples of common environmental risk factors are your home, family, work, school, and community. People who live with family members who abuse drugs and alcohol are at risk for addiction and relapse, as are those who have access to drugs in their local communities.

Sometimes it can be difficult to make drastic positive changes to your environment right away — especially if your relapse prevention plan involves moving to a new home or finding a less stressful job. But if you’re successfully able to identify the things in your life that must change, you can start working toward making those changes happen so you face a better chance at staying sober.

Many addiction treatment centers offer inpatient programs that allow you to recover from addiction and relapse in a safe, structured environment away from negative influences. Some treatment programs even offer sober living facilities so you can recover while surrounded by supportive people devoted to helping you stay clean. Inpatient and partial hospitalization programs like these help you develop a new healthy daily routine you can maintain for life after overcoming addiction.

How Can I Avoid Relapsing Again?

addiction relapse

Relapse isn’t a failure; you can get back on track!

Though addiction relapse may be common, it remains in your best interest to do whatever it takes to avoid relapsing — especially since relapse increases your risk for an overdose. A 2015 Yale study describes addiction relapse as a gradual process with five rules that can enhance your recovery and help you stay sober.

These five rules are:

  1. Change your life in positive ways that make it easier for you not to use drugs and alcohol.
  2. Be completely honest about your past and current drug use, and about any plans to resume drug use in the future.
  3. Ask for help from friends, family, your sponsor, and others who encourage your sobriety.
  4. Practice self-care by finding healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol, such as mind-body relaxation.
  5. Don’t bend the rules by looking for loopholes in recovery and ignoring advice and treatment from professionals.

Here are other effective ways to avoid an addiction relapse.

Create A Relapse Prevention Plan

A relapse prevention plan is a plan comprised of steps to take next when faced with triggers or situations that could lead to drug and alcohol use. Relapse prevention plans can be written or verbalized — whichever method works best for you. In most cases, a relapse prevention plan lists a number of “what if” scenarios, along with ways you can properly handle each scenario and walk away sober every time.

To get started, brainstorm a list of scenarios that could lead to relapse. Then, come up with backup plans for each scenario. For example, when dealing with unexpected stress at work, make plans to relieve stress after your shift by going for a run or hitting the gym instead of heading to the bar. Or, when attending a party where drugs are accessible, come up with excuses that will get you out of using drugs, such as having to work or spend time with relatives early the next morning.

Talk to your sponsor, counselor, or therapist if you need help developing a solid relapse prevention plan. These individuals can help you brainstorm and think of smart, healthy, effective ways to navigate the world while staying sober in the process.

Call Now

Who Answers?

Put Your Recovery First

Recovery should be your top priority after addiction treatment and relapse, because without recovery, your health and overall livelihood remain at great risk. In your earliest days after becoming sober, you may feel more confident, empowered, and excited about having an addiction-free life. These are all positive feelings and a step in the right direction, but neglecting your recovery can lead to relapse when you come face-to-face with drugs and alcohol, and aren’t sure how to handle yourself.

Join an aftercare or extended care program after completing drug detox so you can receive ongoing therapy, counseling, and relapse prevention training in the weeks and months after becoming sober. Aftercare programs offer you a safe haven in which you can speak freely about obstacles you’re facing during recovery, and network with peers who understand what you’re going through.

Celebrate Small Achievements

Celebrating even the smallest of milestones during addiction recovery can motivate you and make you feel more accomplished in regards to staying sober. Reward yourself in small healthy ways every time you achieve a goal. For example, if you’ve been sober for exactly one month, treat yourself to a healthy meal at your favorite restaurant. If you survived an abnormally stressful day at work and went to the gym instead of the bar, treat yourself to a new workout accessory that gets you excited about hitting the gym.

Have a Strong Support System

Supportive friends and family can help you avoid relapse by holding you accountable for your sobriety, and empowering you to stay clean. These individuals can remain by your side and help you in situations that can be difficult to face alone when you’re newly sober, such as sporting events and parties. Friends and family can keep you busy and distracted, and involve you in fun, sober activities that make you feel happier about recovery.

To build yourself an even bigger support team, start attending 12-step support group meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, or participate in group and family therapy sessions in an aftercare program at a drug detox center. Researchers say that group therapies for addiction can help patients stay sober by giving them family-like experiences, and empowering them to support and encourage one another outside the group setting.

Be Open to Change

Your life will improve for the better after overcoming addiction, but you may still face some obstacles along the way that make recovery a bit difficult at times. For example, if some of your oldest friends continue to nag you about not joining them at the bar, you may need to sever ties with those friends for good so you can grow and become a healthier person, and avoid relapse. Stay open to change during your recovery so you can make better choices and improve your lifestyle as needed to benefit from lifelong sobriety.

Practice Mindfulness and Other Strategies

Meditation, yoga, and practicing mindfulness are just a few activities you can do to help stave off urges to use after becoming sober. When you went through drug or alcohol detox, you eliminated those substances in your body to overcome physical dependence, which is often marked by drug cravings. But if you were struggling with addiction for a very long time, or used stimulants like methamphetamine or cocaine, you may continue experiencing cravings and urges for months or years after becoming sober. Ask your counselor or therapist about strategies that might work best for you so you can avoid a relapse.

Many recovery programs offer alternative therapies; get the help you deserve today!

Create Attainable Goals

Create small, attainable goals surrounding your sobriety that you can realistically meet, such as planning to stay sober for the next full week, or attending weekly support group meetings for the following month. Ticking off small goals such as these can make you feel more accomplished, empowered, and motivated about your sobriety. Setting too-large goals like planning on staying sober for the rest of your life without relapsing can put undue pressure on your recovery, and can also be discouraging and overwhelming.

What if I Need More Help?

If you find yourself stuck in an ongoing cycle of relapses, you may need help identifying the true root cause of your addiction so you can experience a full, lasting recovery. Keep in mind that addiction relapse is highly likely, and that it can happen to you. An inpatient detox center can increase your chances for a successful recovery by helping you establish a new healthy sober routine and lifestyle.

Inpatient detox centers have higher completion rates than outpatient detox centers, and offer a range of therapies that can treat every underlying aspect driving your addiction. For instance, if a mental health disorder like depression is interfering with your ability to stay sober, you can receive therapy and medications to treat your depression, and eliminate the root cause of your addiction. Other benefits to recovering at an inpatient detox center include the opportunity to build a stronger support system, having no access to drugs and alcohol, and receiving education on effective ways to stay sober.

If you’re going through an addiction relapse and need help, call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) to speak with an addiction counselor about your treatment options. Or, use our detox center directory to find a treatment center near you.

Get Help Today Phone icon 800-779-4314 Info icon Who Answers?