Fall, Then Stand: What To Do When You Relapse


A Japanese proverb says, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”  That can go for just about any type of endeavor: a new business, school work, and relationships. However, it can be especially applicable during the journey of your recovery from an addiction. At some point, whether you’ve been sober days, weeks, months, or even years, there’s still always the chance of relapse, and it can happen to anyone in recovery at any time.

However, as professionals point out, relapse is not part of recovery. Therapists John and Shawn Leadem at Psychcentral.com state that just because you see someone you admire going through a relapse does not mean it’s going to happen to you as well. However, as Dr. David Sack points out in Psychology Today, about half of folks who try to get sober return to heavy use, while up to 90 percent of those in recovery have a mild slip. Those are scary statistics, but they drive home two central points: your sobriety is the most important part of your life as a recovering addict, and while you may fall into relapse, or even just stumble slightly, you can always get right back up.

Signs of Relapse

First, though, you need to keep in mind some danger signs of relapse. What old habits are you getting into? Are any of your old friends starting to show up and ask you to join them for a night out “for old time’s sake.” Have you stopped attending meetings? Are you feeling depressed, anxious, or irritable? Have you returned to your old habit, thinking just one won’t hurt? If those happen, your relapse might be imminent.

But after your relapse, what then? The odds are that you’ll repeat the cycle all over again. But if you catch yourself, you can honestly appraise what happened. Contact your sponsor immediately, and consider seeking professional help as well, if you’re not already under care. Your addiction and relapse might also be a comorbid condition, where your it is combined with another mental illness such as depression or general anxiety disorder, and one is causing the other. You should also discuss your relapse with family and friends who were affected by your addiction, especially if you had to make amends to them.

The Importance of Diet and Exercise

If part of your recovery was a change in diet combined with regular exercise, then pick up where you left off. Remember how those changes had made a positive impact on your life and how they were great, healthy habits that replaced your old ones. If you have relapsed and have not made those healthy changes to your life, after your relapse is probably a great time to get started. Regular exercise, such as running, fast walking, lifting weights, or doing bodyweight exercises, produces endorphins, which create a natural high. It can also work off excess tension and stress. In addition, a good diet with plenty of leafy greens and proteins such as fish and chicken and eggs is nutritious and helps your body build up its defenses.

The Power of Forgiveness

Above all else, forgive yourself. Shame can be too powerful, especially if you shame yourself when you relapse. There are stories of self-forgiveness while in recovery, even after relapse. Yours is probably no different. Part of forgiving yourself is an acknowledgement of what caused the relapse in the first place. You might have to make some changes because of that. But these changes are a positive outcome of your self-forgiveness.

Staying sober is probably the hardest thing you will ever do in your life. There is never any shame in falling down or stumbling. Because when you fall down, you can pick yourself up again -- and again.  

*** Written by Adam Cook for Meridian Counseling

Adam Cook is the founder of Addiction Hub, which locates and catalogs addiction resources. He is very much interested in helping people find the necessary resources to save their lives from addiction.


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