5 Things You Can Do After a Relapse

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

― Mary Anne Radmacher

What exactly is a relapse?

A relapse is when an individual has undergone an addiction treatment programme but returns to drinking/using drugs or an addictive behaviour. This may be a lapse (for example, one night of drinking) or a full-blown relapse, which curtails recovery and often sees an individual returning to old addictive patterns of behaviour at an alarming rate. A relapse is quite common among alcoholics attempting to sober up and remain abstinent for the first time. The same can be said for individuals with a drug dependency.  

A relapse can befall anyone who has a genuine addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling or addictive behaviour around sex and pornography or an eating disorder. Process addictions (sex, food, etc.) may require more context before a relapse can be defined. This is because a person with an addiction to food or sexual behaviour will have to carefully monitor their thoughts, feelings, sensations, and motives around acting out. Suffice to say, no one can survive without eating and complete abstinence from sex is not a realistic or desirable proposition. Such ambiguity can prolong denial where relapsing into old behaviours around process addiction is concerned. On the other hand, there are clearly defined parameters for individuals dependent on alcohol or drugs.  To use alcohol simply isn’t an option for a recovering alcoholic. Consequently, any return to these behaviours will be considered a relapse.

According to the NHS Health Research Authority: “Worldwide, alcohol abuse is an escalating problem. In the UK 3.9 million adults suffer from alcohol dependence and annually around 22,000 people die from alcohol misuse. Consequences of prolonged alcohol abuse, both physically and psychologically, can be severe and costs the NHS £2.7 billion annually. Treating alcohol dependence and abstinence is key to the mental and physical recovery as well as reducing the burden on the NHS. Current treatments have high relapse rates of 70% after 6 months.”

At Addcounsel, we understand the complexities of addiction and some of the challenges associated with a relapse. We offer expert private treatment for drug addiction, alcohol addiction, mental health, and behavioural conditions. Our bespoke treatments are delivered with compassion and care by highly skilled mental health specialists, following our ‘one client at a time’ methodology.

Not all is lost after a relapse

Tragically, some individuals will not make it through a serious relapse.This could be due to accidentally overdosing on a drug to which there was a high tolerance prior to a sustained period of abstinence, or to alcoholic poisoning. Such incidents are tragic. The loss of a loved one to addiction is devastating to family and friends, and especially so when noticeable progress had been made and relationships restored prior to the relapse.

For most individuals who relapse, they’ll still be a good chance of recovery. There may very well be health, marital, family, and financial repercussions as a consequence of a relapse, but a complete reset leading to sustained recovery is still possible with the appropriate support and treatment.

At Addcounsel, we recognise that addiction is a serious brain disorder and that relapses do happen. Addiction is a medical issue and requires non-judgmental intervention, understanding and compassion.

A relapse usually results in shame and overwhelming guilt for the individual who has succumbed to and acted on addictive thoughts. Although it’ll be appropriate to reflect and carefully consider how to avoid a reoccurrence in the future, holding on to shame and self-condemnation will not be helpful. A sense of self-compassion and a willingness to bolster ones recovery will be far more beneficial than harbouring shame and self-loathing. There’s still every chance to heal and repair relationships and enjoy good mental and emotional health.

5 suggestions after a relapse

The first thing to do after a relapse is to talk to someone you trust about it. This could be a spouse/partner, family member, friend, or a health professional. It’s crucial not to hide away and allow a relapse to gather any more momentum. Here is a potential course of action, post relapse.

Accept what’s happened

The pain of coming to terms with a relapse can be so devastating to the human psyche that many individuals will deny they’ve relapsed, and are once more gripped by their addiction. To accept it would mean stopping drinking/using and having to talk honestly about it. There’s a lot of toxic shame and excessive guilt associated with a relapse. A feeling of letting oneself and others down may feel overwhelming. It’s perfectly natural to experience painful emotions during and after a relapse. This is why it’s important to accept what’s happened, to realise the consequences of a relapse and reset with professional help.

Be mindful of self-denial

To further expand on accepting and coming to terms with a relapse, it’s important to be mindful of the layers of denial associated with an addiction and especially a relapse. Addiction often persists because of a strong denial around the loss of control associated with drinking, using drugs or any other addictive behaviour. There’ll likely be a lot of consequences because of untreated addiction by the time a person seeks help, and yet there may still be denial around having an addictive brain disorder, how dysfunctional things have become, and how much worse things could get without the appropriate treatment.   

Seek treatment and consider a detox

Seeking treatment for a brain disorder (addiction) is essential. In the same way a person would seek a diagnosis and treatment/coping mechanisms for any other illness or disorder, professional help will make all the difference when it comes to addressing such serious conditions as alcoholism/drug dependency. An individual may not need a medically supervised detox after “a lapse” and may view the lapse as a wake-up call to double down on their recovery programme. However, a relapse which has compelled an individual to ingest alcohol or drugs to the same or even greater extent, as they once did, will likely need a detox.Where there is a history of addiction,the human body, (having not ingested alcohol or drugs for many months/years) can be rapidly overwhelmed when it’s suddenly exposed to powerful mood-altering substances again. 

With appropriate feedback, assess what needs to change

At Addcounsel, our world-class team of experts offers support, feedback and can help an individual identify what adjustments need to be made to strengthen recovery going forward. We remind each client that they are going through a highly sensitive process and guide them through the appropriate course of action every step of the way with a tailor-made programme of recovery.

Prioritise health and self-care

After relapsing, a sharpened focus on mental, emotional, and physical health will serve an individual. Good nourishment and furnishing one’s mind with therapeutic practises and sufficient exercise will engender more optimism going forward. Mental and emotional wellbeing can be greatly enhanced in a surprisingly short period of time once self-care is prioritised. This can be accomplished by eating nutritiously and adopting beneficial practices such as yoga and mindfulness.

Relapse prevention strategies

There are plenty of relapse prevention strategies an individual can integrate into their daily routines, some of which are outlined as follows.

Stay connected to trusted individuals in recovery (peer group)

Recovery support groups are a fantastic way to connect with and develop long-lasting systems so as to strengthen one’s recovery. Addcounsel recognises the importance of anonymity, privacy, and security, and so privately held recovery groups can be accessed. There are many options for ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

Persist with a tailor-made recovery programme

There’s no finishing line when it comes to practising a recovery programme. Every day will likely present new challenges, ranging from moderate to seemingly overwhelming, therefore renewing a commitment to one’s recovery every morning is essential. Over time, as the body adapts, and circumstances change, tweaks may be required in one’s recovery programme. This can be discussed with a trusted and competent health professional and with close peers in a recovery group.

Integrate stress reduction techniques

Unregulated stress (including chronic stress) has been known to trigger a relapse. Rajita Sinha, PhD. reports in the National Library of Medicine that: “It has long been known that stress increases the risk of alcohol relapse. Clinical observations, surveys, and epidemiological studies document an association between self-reports of stressors and subsequent return to drinking. Studies assessing alcohol relapse after treatment completion and discharge also indicate the contribution of highly stressful events independent of alcohol use history that increase the risk of subsequent relapse.”

The good news is that health professionals have become more aware of the effectiveness of stress reduction techniques and methodologies, many of which were deemed “alternative therapies”,but which have served those adopting them well for centuries such as yoga, mindfulness (including zen meditation), tai chi, qigong, and chanting mantras. Much investigation and serious case studies have been conducted since the early-2000s with respect to these so-called alternative therapies. This is a great way to explore what works for the individual in recovery, giving them the opportunity to experiment with different techniques, thereby keeping things fresh.

Contact us today

Addcounsel’s team of experts will leverage the world’s most extensive menu of treatment services to help you recover, and create a robust aftercare programme to support re-integration into your family and lifestyle.

We offer treatment for addiction at one of our private, luxury rehab facilities in Knightsbridge, Chelsea, and Mayfair, London, which take place in an intimate, one-to-one setting – no groups, no other patients. Your comfort, safety and privacy are our priority. Contact us today to start your recovery.



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