What to Do When You Relapse: Tips for Those in Recovery

We would all love for substance abuse recovery to be a linear path; a straight shot to sobriety success. Unfortunately, the path to recovery is often not a straight, flat highway with zero traffic you can speed down, but rather a powerful river with the ebb and flow of relapse and recovery. 40-60% of substance abusers in recovery relapse within the first year, so part of the treatment is thinking about how to deal with relapse in recovery.

I Relapsed: Now What?

You are in recovery, and then there’s that moment when you look in the mirror and realize, “I relapsed. I need relapse help.” It is easy, and common, for a patient in recovery to look at this as a sign of weakness, but the very fact that you are recognizing that your behavior is disruptive and unhealthy, and acknowledging that you need help, is a sign of strength.

Relapse as Revelation

Hopefully, you have already discussed relapse with your recovery professional and have a plan in place for what to do when you relapse, but if you do not, this is an opportunity for you to review your recovery plan and revise and refine it as necessary.

Repeat Relapse

While about half of those in substance abuse recovery do relapse, it is not something that you, as the recoverer, should take for granted and downplay if it happens. If that is the case, then you are not committed to your sobriety.

Repeated relapse does occur. It is often referred to as the Revolving Door Syndrome. Some reasons this may occur is if the patient does not acknowledge and address all of the factors contributing to their substance abuse, such as:

  • Depression/anxiety (Dual Diagnosis)
  • PTSD
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Low self-esteem

Relapse Help

Do not let feelings of guilt, shame, regret, anger, or humiliation impede your recovery process. Feel them, analyze them, understand them, but then embrace them as motivators. Those feelings are telling you that sobriety is very important to you.

One of the first things you will need to decide is what type of relapse help you need. This will vary wildly from person to person. For some, relapse recovery after one night of drinking with a buddy can be remedied with a renewed dedication to their sobriety, while for others it may mean going back into treatment.

Alternative Therapies When You Relapse

One of the reassurances of recovery is that there are so many alternatives when it comes to therapies and activities. Medically, you can do intense inpatient and outpatient programs, go to support groups, try transitional living, and participate in other specialty programs through recovery centers like Steps Recovery.

You can also try other therapies such as:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Animal Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Spiritual Guidance

Therapy utilizing physical activity is an ideal way to enhance your recovery process. A small study reported by Harvard Health Publishing indicated that 75% of those who participated in an exercise program three times per week were still abstaining or had reduced their substance use one year later.

Don’t Go It Alone

Any time you relapse, it is advisable to speak to a substance abuse recovery professional. They can help you with the clinical and medical needs that accompany relapse.

Recovery should not be a solo journey. Surround yourself with friends and family who are a positive influence. Your partners in your recovery should be people with whom you can be honest and open about all aspects of your therapy. They should also be people of strength and courage, who can practice some tough love if necessary.

Reach Out for Recovery

You relapsed. It’s OK. You have the strength to pick yourself up and get back on track. Steps Recovery Centers wants to help you navigate the ebb and flow of the waters of recovery. Contact us for more information about our programs, staff, and facilities. We are available 24/7 to help you or a loved one get the help you or they need.


Steps Recovery Center realizes the importance of maintaining a safe and effective environment for our clients and staff. As such, we are actively following all Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines. The additional measures we take at Steps Recovery Centers include implementing the following protocols: admissions screening and testing, coronavirus infection control plans, providing education to clients and staff, and daily, effective screening of all employees and clients for Coronavirus symptoms. To ensure we protect and promote the health and wellbeing of our staff and clients, we will continue to monitor any developing updates to COVID-19, including exposure statistics in the community and guidelines provided by the Utah Department of Public Health.