In recovery, “relapse” is that awful seven-letter word that we all fear will bring our lives crashing down. But here’s the truth about relapse: it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. However, there aren’t many resources that help you decide what to do after a relapse.
Relapses certainly can lead to very bad things and last for long periods of time. These notions make relapses seem earth-shattering, but they don’t have to be. If you do something to stop your relapse rather than succumb to it, you can go back to living a happy, healthy sober life.
The thing to remember is that one day of using or drinking again doesn’t automatically turn into a long-term relapse. A one-day “slip” is serious, but you have the power and knowledge to put on the brakes. The trick is to address your slip immediately, so here are the steps you should take the morning after a slip:
Step One: Admit Your Slip to Yourself
Step one of the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit that you’re “powerless over alcohol,” and that step is crucial whether you’re in AA or not. You can’t help yourself if you don’t think you have a problem. Be honest with yourself by admitting and accepting that you slipped.
Step Two: Make a 24-Hour Commitment
Next, make a 24-hour commitment to stay sober. You will probably be feeling pretty bad about yourself after a slip, and you might dread facing your problems. The AA mantra “one day at a time” is helpful here, too. Promise yourself that won’t use or drink for just the next 24 hours.
Step Three: Connect with Your Spirituality
Most people in recovery find that putting their faith in God or a Higher Power helps them tremendously. No matter what you believe, connect with your spirituality in some way (such as meditation, prayer, reading religious text, etc.).
Step Four: Admit Your Slip to Someone Else
The worst thing you can do after a slip is keep it to yourself. You may feel very embarrassed or ashamed about your slip, but remember that the people who love you are there to support you. You might call your sponsor, therapist, best friend, close family member, or whoever you trust.
Step Five: Get to a Meeting or Counseling Session
If you’re a member of AA or any other fellowship, get yourself to a meeting as soon as you can, preferably within 24 hours after your slip. You might also call your addiction coach, counselor, or other therapist and ask for an emergency meeting.
If you follow those five steps immediately after a slip, it will be much easier for you to jump back on the wagon. If you make it 24 hours without using again, then make another 24-hour commitment to stay sober. A slip does not mean you’ve lost everything you’ve already learned about addiction and recovery.
As they say, “relapse is a process.” To avoid slipping again, you’ll have to closely examine why you slipped, what lead up to it, and what you must change so that you can stand on solid ground in recovery again. On the morning after your slip, however, you don’t need to overwhelm yourself with any thoughts other than staying sober.