Dealing With Having a Relapse

It's Not Unusual to Have a Relapse

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Dealing With Relapse. © Getty Images

If you tried to quit drinking or using drugs, but had a relapse and returned to drinking or using, you are not alone. Statistics indicate that up to 90 percent of people who try to quit have at least one relapse before achieving long-term sobriety.

In recovery circles, it's called a slip, or falling back to previous behaviors. When it happens, it is important that you get back up, dust yourself off and get back on the path to recovery, as Lisa explains to a recent relapser.

Lisa's Story About Having a Relapse

I imagine that you are feeling pretty low right now, but plenty of people around here are proof that you can relapse and still achieve long-term sobriety. I never had any real attempt to quit until the last time, but I understand the shame and self-loathing that accompanies drinking.

I used to promise that I would limit the amount I drank, or I wouldn't drive or make phone calls. I tried the "one drink/one hour" ploy. I could not keep promises to myself because I am alcoholic.

A Learning Experience

I never drank like a normal person, and I never had a healthy relationship with alcohol. It meant something different to me than it did "normal" people.

I think there are statistics to support the idea that most people do not, in fact, stay sober the first time they try. I believe that relapse is the norm rather than the exception. But my own observation is that relapsers who successfully achieve sobriety later are the ones who turn it into a learning experience.

Have You Had Enough?

It is an opportunity for you to assess how you feel about getting sober, about what led to the drinking, and to consider again whether you have had enough. I don't know that you can ever explain all of the whys and wherefores of drinking, but you can certainly identify your triggers and vulnerable places.

I also used Alcoholics Anonymous to learn to live sober, and my experience was that people who slipped or relapsed were welcomed back with lots of love and understanding.

-- Lisa

Avoid Relapse Triggers

For people in early recovery, there are many factors that can trigger a relapse. But relapse is predictable and preventable, if you learn to recognize and avoid the triggers and begin to focus on other more healthy activities.

But even if a relapse occurs, rather than viewing it as a failure, you can turn it into a positive by looking at it as a learning experience in the process that leads to long-term sobriety.