If you Can’t Stop Thinking about Relapse, Try these 3 Things First

When everything is going wrong and it feels like there’s nothing else you can do but relapse, stop and breathe. You will get through this moment; you are resilient and strong. Every recovering addict will face these difficult moments at one time or another. They can, and they do make it though, just like you will. This situation will come to an end, just hold on a little while longer.


First, let’s go over some encouraging facts that can help you find hope during this moment. Then, we’re going to discuss some techniques you can use RIGHT NOW during this overwhelming moment while you’re feeling in crisis. If you are new to recovery, we recommend bookmarking this article so you can come back to it whenever you need.


  • Slip-Ups are common:
    • 40%-60% of all recovered addicts will fully relapse at some point, and 70-90% will experience a minor slip up. No matter how strong, dedicated, and supported that person is, there will be always be bad days. Although you want to try your best to avoid relapse, it does not mean you have failed nor that you are hopeless.
  • For some people, 1 slip-up can be a Good Thing:
    • All recovering addicts should avoid relapse to the absolute best of their abilities; it is dangerous and leads to a greater risk of overdose than normal. Nonetheless, countless individuals in recovery have reported that relapsing one time only was an experience that strengthened their dedication to recovering from addiction. They explain that the disappointment of having slipped up and lost all their progress provides a powerful new source of motivation to never let it happen again.
    • So, if you have found yourself in a situation where you’re slipping up, reframe your point of view. Yes, it was bad to use again, but now you know just how valuable all of the hard work it took to get here really was.
  • The first 90 days are the Hardest:
    • Although relapse can happen at any time, the greatest risk is during these first three months after getting clean. If that applies to you, try to find comfort in the fact that this difficult period will come to an end. Once you make it through these 90 days, and you’ll find that sober living isn’t so strange and uncomfortable anymore. Soon, it will feel more normal to wake up and enjoy a full day without drugs or a drink.

Step 1: Before Relapsing, Pause and Learn


By coming online and looking for resources such as this one, you’ve already made the first move in preventing relapse. Its a sign of dedication, self-love, and respect for the wisdom of others who have walked this path before you. Pausing to think, learn, and read about relapse is putting more distance between yourself and your drug of choice. These other resources can help you better understand, and sort through the chaotic emotions that are going on at this moment.


Step 2: Grab Your Phone, and Make the Call



Now that you’ve learned a bit more about relapsing and how common it is, you’re ready for the next step. We hope the resources and information above have helped to empower you to reach out and not feel ashamed about it. Knowledge is certainly power, but now its time to take action.


If you have a sponsor through AA, your rehab, or support group call them up RIGHT NOW. Whether it’s 3 am on a Tuesday or the middle of the workday, just call. If they don’t answer, call again. As your sponsor, they have agreed to be there for you during times like these so go ahead and blow up their phone. They will understand.


If you don’t have a sponsor, start calling your closest friends and family. They can talk you through this moment over the phone, but if you need more, don’t be afraid to ask them to come over or pick you up. Your social circle wants the best for you, and if you explain sincerely that you’re hurting and that you don’t want to use, they will take action.


Whatever you do, DO NOT listen to that inner voice that says nobody cares. Make those calls, they will prove that wrong.

Step 3: Write


This is not a substitute for Step 2, rather, it’s a supplement. Once you have gotten back in touch with your support network, your difficult feelings aren’t magically going to disappear. Yes, you will feel a huge sense of relief once you’ve gotten together with your network. You’ll feel safer, more connected, loved, hopeful and valued, but there will still be some hurt inside. That’s why we recommend writing through your relapse experience as well.


After the heat of the moment has passed, and your loved ones have picked you up from your low point, it’s a good time to write. Here are some techniques that can help you get some deep release.


  • Choose a stack of papers you can fill up with all of your negative, self-disparaging thoughts, without worrying about making sense or writing correctly, and then discard. One of the most liberating ways to get rid of those thoughts is to take those papers to the nearest river or lake, fold them into a simple boat, and let them float away. Some people prefer to toss them into the firepit and let the embers take care of those bad thoughts for you.
  • If you want to hold on to those negative thoughts to review later, perhaps with your counselor, choose a journal instead. It may be more difficult to truly write freely, but still, this is a therapeutic practice to try.
  • Get some stationary and an envelope and address it to your future self. No one else ever has to see this letter, so you can write freely, openly, and truthfully. Explain where you are right now, and why you want so badly to make it through. Express your hopes, your pain, and the support that is getting you through the current moment. Finish your letter with a thank you to yourself for not letting relapse break you down. When you find yourself in a similar situation, this letter might just bring you back up again.