Recovery from self-destructive behaviors is one of the most difficult tasks a person can undertake. Whether you suffer from substance abuse, self harm, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms, it takes a lot of strength and courage to pull yourself away. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the appearance of relapses.
Relapses are not only common in recovery - they're to be expected. Because you're so used to your unhealthy coping mechanism, dealing with your emotions and any withdrawal symptoms is even more difficult than usual. Even the strongest people suffer from relapses.
The relapse itself is not a testament to your character or will - what shows your strength is how you handle it.
Sometimes it's easy to view relapses as failures on our part, to say, "I went back to my behavior because I'm not strong enough." Subsequently, negative thoughts can crowd in, among them sentiments like, "If I fail once then I'll just fail again. Why try in the first place?" Because of this it's important to restructure our thought processes to view relapses as learning experiences, rather than failures.
Each time we slip up, we learn more about our own emotional state and triggers.
That's not to say that relapses are encouraged - after all, that defeats the point of recovery. But if and when they do occur, they're not the end of the world. The first thing to do after a relapse is to ensure your own safety, particularly if you're struggling with substance abuse or self harm. Are you healthy? Are you in a safe place? Call for emergency medical attention if need be.
Once you know that you're safe, think back on the relapse. What caused you to go back to your self-destructive behavior? What feelings, thoughts, and experiences led up to it? Was there any particular trigger? Knowing these things can help you to avoid more pain and relapses in the future.
Then the most important step is to continue your journey in recovery.
Sometimes a relapse can feel like a reset, and people become frustrated with feelings like, "Now I have to start all over again." But your recovery journey was already started. You just have to get back on the road.
If you need to talk through your thoughts and feelings with somebody, there are always listeners available on 7 Cups. You can also find a support network through our forums. When recovering from any kind of self-destructive behavior, professional support is the best course of action, but if you're unable to have that then the internet is full of resources.
You have the strength to overcome your struggles if you have faith in yourself. And there are people ready to encourage you every step of the way.
By, Katie MacEachern
7 Cups of Tea Listener & Mentor: KittyKat
My story starts on April 9th, 2013: the day that my dad passed away. Losing someone or something is hard, and I knew that before my dad passed, but I had no idea that it felt like this, that it felt so horrible at times. I never had experienced a major loss in my life and this was and still is very new to me. I have gone through a lot during the past year; I have had days where I just cannot help but cry the whole day and others were I can easily make it through and feel content – not to mention everything in between. One of the largest things that I have realized during this process is just how much of a process it really is.
The process of grieving is something that is not the same for any two people – even if you are also experiencing the loss of your father, our processes are very different from each other. Remembering this when going through this journey is rather important. Yes, there are the “5 Stages of Grief”. What is important to note is that not one person will go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance in the same way. Some people may not even go through one or more of these. You need to feel how you actually feel and not how others are telling you that you feel. If you are in the bargaining stage for a whole year and that is how you really feel, there is no problem with that. Trying to conform yourself to any standard in grief is not going to help you but, rather, hurt you.
If you have experienced a loss people in your life, unfortunately, many try to get you to stick to a standard. They have seen or experienced loss and have established a norm about how loss should affect a person. You need to remember that even if someone says it’s time to move on or that you should feel better by now that you do not have to move on. You are allowed to grieve. You are allowed to mourn. You are allowed to feel how you need to feel; don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. I have learned this the hard way and would not wish that upon anyone.
You are not alone. As you grieve and time moves on, people will start to disappear. That person that was checking on you every day for the first few months will stop. It is hard to think about and I know that. Someone told me this and I didn’t believe it because so many people had reached out to me right after my father passed. Because of this, you can’t be afraid to ask for help. These people who leave want to help you, but they may have forgotten something that you will never forget. It is okay to ask for help. You are not alone.
7 Cups of Tea is a great resource to reach out for help in addition to someone in your life. We will be here to listen to what you have to say without judgment. I know that I have used 7 Cups and it has helped me so very much. We are here to support you.
7 Cups of Tea Listener: Jake
We just passed a major milestone at 7 Cups of Tea in that we helped over 10,000 people in the last week alone. To help put this in perspective, many large centers only help about 5,000 people in a year. 10,000 people in one week is a huge testimony to our amazing community of listeners. They are the heart and soul of our site and continue to change the world one conversation at a time. If you need someone to talk to, then we are here for you. If you'd like to join us in providing support, then we'd love to have you join our community of listeners.