There are many points of view on a relapse. One school of thought says that relapse may be part of the recovery process. It has also been stated that relapse occurs only when the commitment to being clean and sober is weaker than the desire to use again. Yet others claim that relapse is a symptom of a brain disease called addiction that occurs in some drug users, but not others.
Regardless of your perspective, for people suffering from drug addiction, relapse is an event with potentially catastrophic consequences. Even if one were only clean and sober for a short while, that probably enough to be aware that one takes their lives in their own hands when they choose to use again. If an addict experiences a relapse, how one feels about it is far less important than what they do to address the situation.
The most urgent need is to honestly acknowledge the relapse. It is important to recognize what has happened, both for yourself and those closest to you. Secondly, asking for help is necessary. Not only to ‘ask’ for help, but to actively ‘get’ help. An addict cannot trust themselves to figure it all out. A treatment center, therapist or counselor, support group, sponsor, a family member, or any combination of these supports, can an addict get back on the beam as soon as possible.
At this point, one can feel a sense of self-loathing. The addict may hate themselves for wasting the prior clean time that was accumulated. Despite the fact of the relapse, it is important to understand that the behavior is both harmful and deadly to the addict themselves and those around them. It may be tempting to judge oneself harshly for making the wrong decision. However, judging oneself without the clarity that a support group could provide to the situation, could create yet another reason to continue to relapse.
An addict may feel shame or feel so worthless that they are not deserving of receiving help and continued support. Yet, the commitment to get and stay clean, in addition to willingness to ask for and receive help from people we trust, is the basis of humility. A decision must be made, no matter the mistake or circumstance, to get and stay clean one day at a time. It is then that the addict can choose to end the cycle of relapse and continue to recover.
Keeping the purpose of being clean and sober clear in one’s mind can keep an addict sober, if they remain honest, willing and keep trying. If a slip back to drink or drugs occurs along the path, it is not to be taken lightly. It is addressed as quickly as possible using the tools learned from recovery. Avoiding self condemnation, it is important not to hamper one’s forward momentum with critical thinking or value judgements. Without pride it is paramount to reach out and get help quickly in order to facilitate a return to recovery.