On this blog we will discuss everyone’s least favourite word – relapse. This means different things to different people – for some, it is a return to drinking after being abstinent, whereas for others it is a return to their old behaviour after a period of drinking moderately. Whatever it is, we can agree that relapse is a big setback and can feel overwhelming – but the good news is that there are a few ways of dealing with it. Here are some tips on how to deal with a relapse:
1. Take Stock
The first step would be to take stock of where you are right now and what has been going on. It’s great that you’re taking the time to acknowledge a relapse – many people find this difficult to do – and understanding what has contributed to it is going to be really useful. You might have to play detective, but see if you can think back to previous situations like this, and the key things that contributed to it.
2. Find Support
This is invaluable – talk to someone you trust, whether it is a friend or professional, to discuss where you’re at right now. Accessing support can make a world of difference to your alcohol use, since once you do that you are no longer alone in this and can actually explore what is going on. The support of a trusted person can be useful in planning how you’re going to deal with this, helping you manage the emotional fallout of a relapse, talk through what it means for the future, and help you to put things into context.
3. Learning experience
Really the only good thing about a relapse is the opportunity it provides for learning. We can look at this situation as a ‘what not to do’, and consider things like what might have helped, or how we might manage something next time it comes up. Taking a growth mindset can help lessen some of the disappointment and grief that can come with relapse, and help us to see that we are playing the long game and are determined to figure this out.
4. Reset & Re-focus
After the dust has settled, you now have a new challenge – setting yourself new goals and making a new safety plan, based on what you’ve just learned about yourself. Taking what worked in the past (e.g. regular exercise, online social support) and combining it with new strategies (e.g. monthly counselling sessions, journaling) means that, as time goes on, you’re refining and developing strategies that work best for you. As painful as they can be, relapses and returns to old behaviour can teach us a lot about ourselves and our needs, and the more information we can get from them, the better!
We hope you’ve found these tips useful. If you’re thinking it is time to make some changes to your relationship with alcohol, I’d recommend you visit the Daybreak app. You can get the help and support you need from a community of people with similar goals to you, as well as help with getting more support if you need it. Changing your relationship with alcohol doesn’t have to be drastic or involve huge changes to your lifestyle – it is more about figuring out what is going to work for you.