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Relapse: What Happens Next?

At Sage Recovery we understand that the path from addiction to long-term sobriety is hardly ever a straight line. Your path may include relapse. This is nothing to be ashamed of, as the recovery process will look different for everyone. There will be successes as well as setbacks, and we know that’s okay. We strive to support our clients with whatever resources they require to increase their chances of permanent success with sobriety.

During the treatment process at Sage Recovery, we prepare each of our clients to face any challenge that might arise. One challenge we are sensitive to and encourage our clients to be mindful of is the possibility of relapse. Relapse affects 40-60% of individuals in recovery. It may not happen for you, but it is essential to fortify yourself daily against triggers and temptations.

Five Rules of Recovery

There are five rules of recovery that can serve as strong guidelines to help you prevent relapse. Plan a daily check-in with yourself where you can examine how you are feeling and review these rules to determine whether your thoughts and behaviors are in line with preventing relapse.

  1. Change your life. You can’t expect to stay strong and avoid relapse if you go right back to the people, places, and situations that contributed to your addictive behavior before treatment. Make the conscious decision to surround yourself with like-minded people who can support you in sobriety.
  2. Be completely honest. Addictive behavior almost always includes some form of dishonesty. You need to make sure you are being honest with yourself, your circle of support, and your treatment specialist. Whether you are feeling on top of the world or are worried about a possible slip, be honest.
  3. Ask for help. Addiction recovery can be difficult and there is nothing wrong with needing extra support. If you are having a hard time or feel uncertain for any reason, reach out for help.
  4. Practice self-care. Once you have embarked on your path to long-term sobriety, you will need to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. You could find a new hobby or add physical activity to your routine. Practicing mindfulness through meditation or journaling can also be beneficial.
  5. Don’t bend the rules. You may find yourself on a slippery slope toward relapse if you falter in your resolve to stick to your treatment plan. The rules and recommendations you adopted during treatment are there to protect you and help you avoid unnecessary challenges. Stick to your treatment plan at all times.

True long-term recovery is not achieved by trying to avoid using substances without making other lifestyle changes. You cannot go back to your old life thinking you will be able to live as you always have minus your addiction. If you don’t change your life, you will be confronted regularly with all the factors that contributed to your addiction in the first place.

Common Causes of Relapse

You are a unique individual. As such, you will need to work closely with your treatment team to create a unique treatment plan. Your plan should take into consideration the possibility of a relapse. Try to identify your triggers, and be aware of triggers that are common to everyone in early recovery.


Cravings for your addiction seem like it might be an obvious trigger. Just because it is an obvious trigger does not mean it should be minimized. Cravings can influence your thoughts, feelings, and impulses. You should always remain vigilant and seek support if you are feeling drawn back toward your addiction.

Pressures of Moving Forward

Struggling with addiction can create chaos in every aspect of your life. You may be worried about finding a job or hobbies and social situations that will help you stay sober. When you are feeling overwhelmed, you are vulnerable. Be sure to use your coping strategies for dealing with stress and reach out for help if you need it.

Difficult Emotions

Experiencing difficult emotions can be triggering as well. A common self-check tool is an acronym known as HALT. If you feel yourself starting to feel out of control, ask yourself: Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? All of those feelings can be triggering if not managed consciously. Another emotion you may not normally consider troublesome is boredom. Be mindful of where your thoughts wander when you are bored.

Handling Relapse in a Healthy Way

If you experience a relapse, the first thing you need to do is reach out for help. Contacting your treatment team right away is the best thing you can do to get back on track quickly. You need to remind yourself that a relapse is not a failure. Be kind and patient with yourself. Utilize the continuum of care resources that are available to you.

To turn a relapse into a resource for your future sobriety, you should use your relapse as a learning experience. Work with your therapist to examine the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that led to the relapse. Once you have identified areas of struggle, you can also develop strategies that will enable you to be more successful in the future.

Choosing to learn from your relapse can be empowering and help you get back in control of your sobriety. Achieving long-term sobriety can be a challenging process. Having a solution-oriented mindset when coming back from a relapse will help you be more successful. Remember that you are not alone. Lean on the people you have surrounded yourself with when you need support. Stay hopeful always.

Experiencing a relapse during recovery can feel devastating, but it is important that you not let a setback become the reason you stop trying. With the right professional support and resources, you can use a relapse to improve your treatment plan and increase your chances of being successful in the future. At Sage Recovery, we believe in providing our clients with support whenever they need it, from detox to treatment and beyond. We understand that the path to sobriety is different for everyone and we offer individualized treatment plans that will fit your unique personality and lifestyle. Call Sage Recovery today at (512) 306-1394 to find out more about our unique approach to treatment and recovery.