You were probably pretty excited when you first got sober—and rightfully so. After all, you had just overcome a huge challenge in order to reset your life and get back on track. Drugs or alcohol (or both) had been damaging your mental and physical health, your ability to work or study, and your relationships. It was not a sustainable situation, so you did the thing you needed to do: got help and got sober.
It only makes sense that you would feel joyful in those early days of recovery (though, in some cases, those joyful feelings can indicate something called “pink cloud syndrome”). And each day you stay sober is an occasion worth celebrating, too.
But what if you experience a relapse?
If you start using drugs or alcohol again, you will not feel like celebrating. In fact, you may feel as though a catastrophe has occurred. You worked so hard to get sober, and now you have given all of that up. You might conclude that the relapse means you can never stay sober for extended periods of time—and that might lead to feelings of despair, the very opposite of the celebratory mood you experienced when you regained your sobriety.
When you are feeling despair, it can be hard to motivate yourself to do much of anything. It might feel like giving up on your sobriety is the only thing you can do. Those feelings are understandable—but they are not in your best interest. Using drugs or alcohol is never going to be in your best interest. That is why you got sober in the first place.
And that is why, if a relapse occurs, you need to look for the same motivation that led you to reclaim your sobriety in the first place.
And then you need to do exactly what you did then.
After a Relapse, Get Yourself Back Into Treatment
Because a relapse feels like a failure, you might be tempted to conclude that your treatment for a substance use disorder was a failure, too. If that were the case, it would not make much sense to return to treatment after a relapse.
But it is absolutely essential that you remember that you did, in fact, regain your sobriety in treatment. In detox, you were able to get sober in a safe and temptation-free environment. In rehab, you learned strategies for staying sober, got treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, and benefited from group and individual therapy.
And then you experienced that celebratory feeling we started this entry reminding you of. Each sober day after that—whether they were few in number or you were sober for a long time—was absolutely a win.
Again, none of that was a failure. Rather, you successfully gave up drugs or alcohol. And you can absolutely do it again by following the same steps as before.
Remember That Relapses Can Recur
In a perfect world, relapses would not even be a thing. You would go through treatment and that would be that.
In a slightly less perfect world, you might experience one—but only one—relapse. A second time through treatment would seal the deal in terms of your ongoing sobriety.
Unfortunately, the world is even a bit less perfect than that. The truth is relapses are common, they can happen to anyone who is recovering from a substance use disorder, and they can happen more than once.
Obviously, a relapse is always going to feel like a setback. The route back to success is always available. If you experience a relapse (whether it is your first or second or what have you), the next step is to get back to treatment so that you can work your way back to sober and try again.
Every single time you reclaim your sobriety, it is absolutely worth it—and worth celebrating, too.
Your Return to Sobriety Can Start at The Farley Center
If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, it can feel as though everything is falling apart—and that can make it extremely difficult to figure out what you should do to try to put everything back together. The answer—as we have argued in this entry—is to get yourself into treatment.
At The Farley Center—located in Williamsburg Place, Virginia—our medically supervised approach to detoxification will help you weather the storm of withdrawal symptoms that often make getting sober so difficult. In rehab, we provide group and individual therapy as well as treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, or issues grounded in traumatic experiences. We follow all of that up with a commitment to a continuum of care so that you can start your recovery journey with confidence and ongoing support.