Last updated: 04/13/2020
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Recovery isn’t a one-time event, but rather an extended journey, and sometimes, we slip and fall along the way. A relapse should never be seen as a failure. Relapse is just a sign that changes need to make. Perhaps you need to return to weekly counseling or go back to attending daily support group meetings. Some people who relapse in recovery even return to outpatient or inpatient treatment. What matters is that you take an honest look at any factors that may have contributed to your relapse—a counselor or therapist can be invaluable for this process—and then make an honest choice about what level of treatment you need, and what changes you need to make, to return to sobriety.
Relapse is very common, even after professional treatment. It could be that relapse is just a necessary step in your recovery. Think about the techniques you used to stay sober before, and which of these were most helpful to you. Then, ask yourself: what do I need now? Take everything you learned the last time you were in treatment and build on that knowledge by rededicating yourself to your recovery and opening yourself up to new lessons.
What Counts as a Relapse?
Relapse doesn’t begin with action; it begins inside the mind. Your thoughts begin to give you permission to skip meetings or counseling sessions, to isolate yourself from loved ones, or to start neglecting self-care. At this point, you may not be thinking about substance use at all, but if destructive thought patterns continue leading you back to destructive patterns of behavior, sooner or later you’ll start looking for excuses to start drinking or using again.
It is possible to halt a relapse before substance use is resumed if you, your sponsor, or a mental healthcare provider recognizes that you are in the early stages of relapse. For this reason, and many others, you need to maintain openness and honesty with yourself and others during your recovery. Being transparent with others, and staying away from denial, will give you your best chance of identifying and halting a relapse before you return to active addiction.
Is Treatment after Relapse the Only Choice?
Not everyone needs to go back to rehab after a relapse. You might need to return to weekly counseling or therapy sessions to work through a current crisis. You may need to attend meetings more often and check in with your sponsor more frequently. Support groups can help strengthen your commitment to abstinence as well as surround you with other individuals who are going through the same things you are.
If you do decide that you need more intensive help, there are several different kinds of treatment options for those who want to get back on track after relapse.
If you have a strong support system and a positive home environment, an outpatient rehab program may be enough to break the cycle of relapse. There are also booster sessions available at some rehab facilities, which can be ideal for some people who have relapsed after recent treatment. These short-term outpatient sessions can provide the benefits of rehab without requiring you to check into a full rehab program. Your original rehab program might offer this option to you as aftercare, or another, a local treatment center may be able to provide these sessions.
If you don’t have a stable home life, or feel unable to break the cycle of relapse on your own, an inpatient rehab program would be a more suitable choice. Inpatient treatment may also be the right choice if it has been a year or longer since you were last in treatment. A more intensive treatment experience might be needed to remind you of everything you learned before, and to teach you new lessons that may apply to changes you’ve experienced since leaving rehab the first time.
Do I Need to Go Back to Rehab?
Not everyone needs to go back to rehab after relapse. It is important to consider the severity of your situation as well as what methods will be most likely to help you before deciding to go back to rehab.
If your relapse was particularly serious, and you have returned to heavy drug use for a while, or your primary substance of use has an especially dangerous withdrawal syndrome, you may want a medical detox followed by a full inpatient stay.
It is time to be truly honest with yourself and to consider what needs to change for you to stay sober and avoid another relapse. In most cases, it will be best to consult a professional to get an outside perspective on the chain of events leading up to the relapse. Just be sure to be completely truthful and forthcoming with treatment professionals so that they can get an accurate picture of your situation.
Not everyone needs to return to rehab for another intensive program, but if you do, remember many others do as well. You are not alone. Give yourself permission to get the level of treatment you need at a program that will also work with you on a strong aftercare plan with follow-up visits, support resources, and relapse prevention counseling.
Let Us Help You
Are you still trying to decide which option is best for you, or do you need help finding a rehab program that can teach you ways to avoid relapse and cater to your needs? Talk to a healthcare professional, your previous treatment facility, or contact an addiction treatment hotline or website. Don’t delay your recovery for another moment.