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Relapse Doesn’t Mean Failure: Growing From Setbacks

Relapse Doesn't Mean Failure: Growing From Setbacks

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are serious chronic diseases in which a person develops unhealthy patterns of behavior surrounding substances such as alcohol or drugs. Addiction to these substances can creep into every part of a person’s life and affect their ability to function. SUDs are treatable, and with the right treatment and lifestyle changes, recovery is possible.

Recovery from SUD is a process of changing your life, not just abstaining from drugs and alcohol. You need to make positive changes to support your mental and physical health, as well as build routines that will help keep you committed to your sobriety. Often you can work together closely with your family during this time, as their lives have most likely been affected too. 

Recovery Is a Process

True recovery is almost never a direct path from detoxification to full remission. You will need a variety of building blocks in your foundation for sobriety, including peer support, family connections, self-care habits, and a commitment to sobriety. Recovery is not only defined by how well you are accomplishing your goals but also by how you manage setbacks. 

Relapse occurs when a person stops working toward their goal of sobriety and returns to the use of substances that they were trying to avoid. It is a common setback during recovery, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone’s journey with SUD will look different, and so will their recovery process. The important thing is to use all information at your disposal to acquire the resources you need to move forward.

Relapse Does Not Mean Failure

If you experience a relapse, the first thing you need to do is contact your treatment team. This might include doctors, sponsors, or mental health professionals. They will help get you to a place where you can get back on track immediately. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be. Your treatment team will be able to work with you to not only get back on track but help you identify the factors that led to the relapse.

Relapse is not a failure and does not mean that you should quit trying. During every part of treatment and recovery from SUD, you should be patient and kind to yourself. This is even more true when handling a relapse. Relapse doesn’t have to be a defining moment in your recovery journey if you handle it correctly.

The best way to handle a relapse is to use it as a springboard to future success. You can examine the experience to discover what factors contributed to the relapse. What were you thinking about? How were you feeling? Were there people, places, or things that were triggering for you? Using this information, you can fortify yourself against relapse in the future.

Common Triggers of Relapse

When talking about relapse, it can be helpful to lean on the experiences of others to try to prepare yourself to handle things that might trigger you. Of course, you should always be most aware of your own personal triggers and work closely with your support people to help you identify them and make a plan for avoiding them. It can also be helpful to be aware of common triggers that people face.

Loneliness and Boredom

Feeling alone with nothing to do can be a struggle for anyone, but it is especially difficult during early recovery. If you don’t have meaningful activities to fill your time, you may be tempted to engage in activities that can threaten your commitment to sobriety. Similarly, if you don’t have any healthy personal connections you can rely on, you may be tempted to reach out to people who won’t support your new goals. 

It is essential to find people and activities to fill your time that will completely support your recovery journey. Making plans with friends and family members is a great way to stay busy and have fun. You should also rely on your local recovery community. They will often have social and recreational activities that you can attend. 

Intense Emotions and Cravings

When you are in the middle of an addiction, you use substances to handle intense emotions. It is important to have coping skills and plans in place to help you deal with emotional triggers in recovery. If you have new ways to handle your feelings, you will be less likely to fall into unhealthy behavior patterns from your past. 

Being aware of your cravings and understanding that you have the power to resist them is crucial to your recovery. You need to be aware of what might trigger a craving and have a solid plan in place on how to handle the situation. Rely on the skills you developed during treatment. Talk to a friend, a family member, or a sponsor. Reaching out for support is one of the best ways to handle an unexpected craving.


Recovery is going to be a growing experience that is as unique as you are. Discovering your strengths and identifying areas that need improvement can help you immensely. Relapse may be a part of your journey, but it can be used as a tool to help you become stronger in your commitment to sobriety. At Malibu Wellness Ranch, we strive to give our clients all the skills and resources they need to be successful. This includes helping them find resources local to them for ongoing support after treatment. Call us at (800) 862-5428 for more information about our unique treatment program that is located on 800 beautiful acres in the Pocono Mountains.