Relapse doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

View it as a new beginning – an experience that will help someone else. It doesn’t matter whether you had two minutes, two years, or two decades sober from mind-altering substances, but what you do now in this moment that counts. Here are strategies to not only recover from your relapse safely and effectively, but become even stronger as a result.

✓ Stay Out of Self-Battery

Refrain from the temptation of beating yourself up, by avoiding negative descriptions like – ‘stupid,’ ‘weak,’ ‘pathetic,’ or ‘ a loser.’ Avoid seeking out other people who will feed into these self-defeating opinions. Instead, surround yourself with people who understand your disease. Your self-esteem has already suffered a huge blow. You don’t need anyone else to cut you off at the kneecaps.

✓ Be Gentle and Loving to Yourself

Do not appoint thyself judge and jury. There are plenty of people who will happily do that for you. Unfortunately, cancer patients are smothered in sympathy if they relapse after remissions, but that is often not the case for alcoholics, drug addicts, eating disorder survivors, and other individuals challenged with a mental illness. Frequently, there is scorn by those who do not understand that we have a chronic, life-long illness.

Accept society’s limitations in this regard, and don’t take it personally. Instead, be your own best version of a loving bff. Give yourself hugs and loving self-talk. If need be – fake it until you make it in this regard. Habitually say loving, positive affirmations to yourself, until you once again begin believing you are worthy.

✓ Don’t Isolate

Your disease is centered in the brain. It wants to keep you in hiding so it can do a real number on your head and defeat your intentions. In addition to seeing your sober counselor or attending group support meetings, schedule some healthy distractions, so you are not focused on the creeps that accompany the trauma associated with the relapse. Take an exercise or yoga class that is enjoyable, as opposed to a punishing gym session. Leave your Netflix at home and go with a friend to an actual movie theater. See a comedy, fantasy film, or attend a sporting event in your community. Get out of your head and be of service by visiting an elderly relative you’ve perhaps neglected. You will instantly feel better when you see how much your visit meant to the person. Connect, connect, connect, in positive and meaningful ways.

✓ Get in Touch with Nature

Hope springs eternal – even in the dead of winter. Go outdoors and scan your surroundings for signs of hope, no matter how small. From a perfect snowflake to a seasonal bloom, there are signs all around us that we are a part of something bigger and more beautiful. Embrace the beauty of the world around you, and be grateful for another day of life.

✓ Gratitude Lists

Corny as they sometimes seem, putting pen to paper, or keystroke to your mobile app or computer a list of everything and everyone you have a grateful heart for, does elevate your mood and perspective. Dig deep and aim for a 100 examples a day. In the beginning, you may only get a third of that number, but within a few days, a hundred items of gratitude will be a simple exercise that will shift your attitude into sincere submission.

✓ Break Your Day into Chunks

Move “a day at a time” to a moment at a time. Faced with the prospect of several hours ahead of you when you wake up in the morning might seem daunting as hell! Instead, take it minute-by-minute. Do what’s right in front of you over the next few minutes, as opposed to the next few hours. Whatever you do, stay out of yesterday or tomorrow, but stay in this second. You will find your anxiety level is much less when you practice this.

✓ Immediately Get Back into Your Pre-Relapse Self Care Mode

Make your bed every day. It brings immediate order. Not only is it visually pleasing, but there is an emotional and mental benefit of giving one a sense that everything is in order. A little bit of chaos spreads like a virus. There’s an instant harmony that it’s going to be a better day with a bed that is neatly made. However, stay away from the tendency to do it perfectly. You don’t have to be able to bounce a quarter off it for the exercise to be effective.

Make sure you eat and stay hydrated by drinking loads of water. If you don’t have time for breakfast. Take a couple of hard-boiled eggs with you when you go out. Our bodies need fuel, but our minds and emotions are fed when we have sustenance. Plan ahead to avoid hunger and balance your body chemistry. Impulsive decisions like reaching for a bottle or scoring drugs have a greater chance of being thwarted when we are satiated with food as our fuel.

Get plenty of sleep. Our bodies and our minds need restoration to function. When you are detoxing your body requires more rest. Being sleep deprived often makes one vulnerable to a relapse. Don’t play around with your body’s circadian rhythms when you are newly sober.

Remember, your relapse does not define you, but your actions do. Dust your pants off, ask for help and get back on your recovery path. Be grateful you made it back alive, as many people don’t. Look at this episode as a new chapter in your healing. View it as a lesson and not a license for more self-destruction.

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