How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward After Relapse 

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

You’re an alcoholic or drug addict. You’ve admitted it before. You gathered up the courage, took several very deep breaths and called 1st Step’s South Florida drug rehab and residential detox. You successfully completed the program and went home to start living a sober and healthy life. You were moving forward. You were healing. But now you find yourself at what feels very much like square one. The beginning of everything. You’ve relapsed. Maybe you had months of sobriety. Maybe you had years. Maybe you got back from 1st Step’s South Florida alcohol treatment and you were only able to last hours before a trigger sent you into a drinking binge. Regardless of the situation or reason it’s time to take responsibility for what happens next and forgive yourself for making a mistake, even one that feels so consequential as this.

Turn Your Heartache and Grief Into Learning

Some people find that when relapse happens it is difficult to not fall down a shame spiral into self loathing. The grief that comes from doing what you promised yourself all through treatment you would never do can be all consuming. You may find that you’re scouring your memory to understand how you could have picked up that bottle, syringe or pipe. It doesn’t do a lot of good to obsess about the details of why you relapsed unless you take that intense focus and use it as fodder for learning. It can be hard to keep your psyche from settling on a mantra of self hatred when you are looking back at all of the hard work that got you through drug or alcohol addiction treatment to begin with, but something to remember here is that recovery from chemical dependency of drugs or alcohol is a lifelong pursuit. That is to say, there is never going to be a moment when sobriety isn’t a choice you have to make every single day, and sometimes multiple times a day. That’s a lot of times you have to say no to something that it is very possibly  in your blood to say yes to. What I mean is that you should try to remember that addiction is a disease that is both genetic and social in nature. The genetic aspect of addiction does indeed play into if a person is predisposed to relapse. And, unfortunately, the stigma that can come along with addiction can also play a role, socially, in a person’s likelihood of replace since an overwhelming sense of shame is such a catalyst for substance abuse. In light of those facts, how do you learn something from what feels like a catastrophic point on your life’s timeline?

Walk Away From The Temptation to Hate Yourself

Please know that while a relapse may feel like the ultimate failure and self betrayal, you are not alone, many addicts experience a relapse. It always feels tragic and hopeless to the person suffering with the chemical dependence, but even as many so many people experience relapse, something to know is that a good amount of them get clean again and are able to continue their journey of recovery. Don’t look back at your treatment thus far and see it as a waste. You still have all of that knowledge in you and a moment’s decision does not wipe away all of that hard work. The important thing is to take responsibility for your addiction, your reaction to your relapse, and your plans moving forward to sustain a life of health and sobriety. Relapsing does not make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you too broken to recover, it does not make you worthless or unlovable.

What It Means and Doesn’t Mean To Take Responsibility For Your Relapse?

Taking responsibility for yourself does not require you to hate yourself. All it demands is that you seek medical and therapeutic help, and that you are honest with yourself about what happened and how you will manage your triggers moving forward. Taking responsibility is active in nature it is not, in spite of what any one individual or the wider world may have you believe, an exercise in admitting culpability or in anyway playing “the blame game”. On the contrary taking responsibility for your relapse and addiction necessarily includes forgiving yourself. Nothing good comes from self shaming. The fact is that you relapsed and that you need to critically examine what happened in order to be able to heal from the experience, and properly treat the disease, substance abuse and addiction – you cannot do this if your focus is on how disappointed you are in yourself. Addiction is an affliction that is more complicated than a result of a flawed character, and in order to move forward you have to admit that it is true.

 

Once you’ve forgiven yourself here are a few concrete ways to move forward in treatment.

  1. Make sure you’re attending a 12 step program and don’t forget to share at the meetings.
  2. Find a therapist who you feel like you can trust and attend sessions.
  3. Go back to inpatient treatment

 

If you’re ready to seek further treatment please call 1st Step at (866) 319-6126. We have a myriad of programs including our South Florida alcohol treatment and our residential detox program. Call us today to hear more about these services. They may be just what you need to get back on your feet.

 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.