After a drug or alcohol slip up
After You Slip: What to Do to Get Back on Track
Sometimes it’s less important to beat yourself up about WHY relapse occurs, and it’s more important to get back on track in your recovery. Relapse can happen, but it doesn’t have to derail your entire life. When you slip, it’s possible to catch yourself before you fall too far if you follow this plan of action as soon as possible. We invite your questions, feedback, or experiences about different ways to prevent relapse in the comments sections at the end.
You can recover after a slip up
Relapse does not have to be a part of recovery, but sometimes it is. No matter how long you’ve been in recovery, relapse is still a real danger. It’s important for us to remember, however, that relapse – as long as it’s not a fatal one – can be overcome if you take the right steps to correct your mistake as soon as possible.
As long as you’re being honest with yourself and working a recovery program, you can catch the warning signs of relapse well before you pick up again. Relapse is a process that starts when negative thoughts or behaviors aren’t addressed, and it culminates in using drugs or alcohol again. If you don’t catch yourself before you slip up and use, you can still follow this action plan that will get you back on track.
What to do after a slip up
1. Face reality.
First, admit to yourself that you’ve slipped. Honesty and acceptance are essential. You must be willing to admit to yourself that you made a mistake, and you must accept that you slipped and need help. If you’re in denial about your slip or deny the potential consequences, you’re putting yourself at risk of a longer relapse.
2. Share it with someone.
Second, admit to someone else that you’ve slipped. Don’t try to deal with your slip by yourself. When you relapse, it’s time to lean on your support system. Remember that your loved ones (friends, family, sponsor, doctor, etc.) want to help you, not judge you. Keeping your slip to yourself is a dangerous idea.
3. Take it a day at a time.
Third, make a 24-hour commitment to stay sober. The popular Alcoholics Anonymous saying “one day at a time” is particularly helpful after a slip. When you’re struggling, it can really lighten your load if you just focus on the next 24 hours. Pledge not to pick up again for one day, and after you succeed, repeat.
Fourth, reconnect to your recovery. Meditation, prayer, reading recovery-related texts, or attending a meeting or a counseling session are some of the things you can do to reconnect to your recovery. You need to remind yourself why you’re sober and remember why recovery is so much more desirable than addiction.
Fifth, forgive yourself. It’s crucial to forgive yourself for slipping. Holding onto the guilt or shame you feel is putting yourself at risk for further relapse. Remember that a slip doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You can start back up again right where you left off in recovery, and you still have all of the tools and knowledge you’ve acquired.
6. Learn from your experience.
Sixth, analyze your slip. Once you’re back on the recovery wagon, you need to analyze your slip and why it happened. What negative thoughts and actions lead to your relapse? What changes can you make so you don’t end up slipping again? If you want to avoid another relapse, you need to make whatever the necessary positive changes are.
Photo credit: Andreas Levers