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What to Do After a Relapse

A relapse occurs when a person who has gotten sober from drugs or alcohol ends up drinking or drugging again. Instead of just experiencing a lapse (where they drink or use one single, solitary time after getting sober) their active addiction kicks back in and they are regularly drinking or using again. 

If you ask anyone who has ever relapsed how they felt after they relapsed, they will tell you they felt guilty. They will probably tell you that they felt like they failed, too. if you do relapse, you are not a failure. Relapse is an unfortunate possibility in the lives of those who have recovered from drug or alcohol addiction. And while not everyone relapses, countless people do and are able to get back up on their feet and try again. 

What to Do After a Relapse 

If you have relapsed, chances are you can spend some time reflecting on your more recent behaviors and pick out the ones that led to your eventual use. It is common to relapse when you are not taking good care of yourself, hanging out with the wrong people, or improperly dealing with your emotions. Whatever the reasons were for your relapse, you are in a position now where you need to get yourself back on track. Some things that you can do after you have relapsed and want to rebuild your sobriety can range from simple things like talking to a loved one about what happened to more involved actions like going back to treatment. 

Talk to someone about it 

It is easy to excuse away the drinks you had or the hits you took if you continue to tell yourself that each time you use will be the last. Before you know it, you may very well find yourself in a much worse situation than you were prior to getting sober. One of the most important things you can do if you relapse is tell someone about it. Tell someone who you love and trust. Do not try to carry that burden around on your own. Talking about it with someone can help you see your next steps clearly. 

Make changes

You didn’t relapse because you were doing the next right thing each day. Chances are you relapsed because you made changes in your life that did not support your recovery. You might have started hanging out with old friends, got into a relationship that didn’t work out, or forget to practice self-care on a regular basis. Whatever changes you made that took you off course in regards to your recovery, reverse or revise them. Continuing to engage in behaviors that led to your relapse will only cause the same result again.

Go to meetings

Local support group meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are a major way of life for those in recovery. In these meetings, people utilize one another as a strong support system of peers who can relate to one another in ways most others cannot. If you have relapsed, go to a meeting right away. Talk to other members about what happened. Listen to advice, grab your 24-hour coin, and pick back up again. Meetings work, but only if you show up. 


For many people, their recovery is the most important thing in their lives, especially when they are new to it. If you have relapsed, spend some time ensuring that your priorities are where you want them to be. It can help to sit down and write out the things that mean the most to you and literally put them in order of importance. Anything that does not support your priorities needs to be put to the side or completely removed from your life (e.g. friends who are still active addicts and alcoholics). This is certainly not an easy thing to do, but if you want to maintain your recovery, putting yourself and your needs first is critical.

Go back to treatment 

Some relapses are easier to bounce back from than others. If you have experienced a relapse that has you all out of sorts and feeling unsteady, go back to treatment. There is absolutely no shame in reaching out for help anytime you need it. Addiction is a disease that is extremely complex and cannot be cured. The best you can do is learn how to stay sober and give it your all. Going back to treatment can help you re-stabilize your foundation, build yourself back up, and implement new strategies that help prevent relapses in the future.

Above all else, be sure to forgive yourself if you relapse. It is highly characteristic of an addict or alcoholic to internalize something as severe as a relapse and beat themselves up over it. But chances are you have already learned the importance of forgiving yourself and accepting your mistakes. In the face of a relapse is the best time to give yourself the grace you deserve. You cannot go back and change what has occurred, but you can take it one day at a time. So, forgive yourself. Do not allow the guilt and shame to weigh so heavy on you that you cannot pull yourself back up. Relapse is part of recovery — it is what you do after your relapse that matters most. 

Have You Relapsed? Are You Feeling Unsteady in Your Sobriety? Ohio Addiction Recovery Center

Being in recovery is not as easy as some might think. We understand that staying sober takes an enormous amount of effort. We also know that sometimes it’s all you can do to put one foot in front of the other. With our help, you can prevent a relapse from occurring or get back on track if one has already occurred. We are here to support you every step of the way.

So, if you need help, do not hesitate to reach out to Ohio Addiction Recovery Center. We are here to help.

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