Why Recovery After Relapse is a More Personalized Experience

A relapse isn't the end of the world, but it's important to take action quickly. You and your health care provider should assess what went wrong and create game plan moving forward, but where do you even begin?

The good news is, after relapse you're entering recovery from a place of experience. You know the parts of treatment that worked for you, and the parts that did not. Because there are so many variables — your emotional state, living situation, potential criminal consequences, comorbidities, etc — it's important to understand why the relapse occurred and adjust your recovery accordingly.

"It depends on why the relapse happened and how the relapse comes to light," says Dr. Natalie Feinblatt, a licensed psychologist who specializes in addiction and trauma. "For example, if a person is trying to live at home while getting sober but keeps falling into bad habits there, it might be time for residential treatment. If a person's relapse is over quickly and they are honest about it immediately, no change might be necessary."

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You should determine what caused the relapse — peer pressure/social situation, stress, major life change, emotional state, physical pain or lack of support. Then you should take a look at your treatment up to the point of relapse and determine what was working well and what wasn't.

Being honest with yourself, your friends, your family, and your healthcare provider is necessary to fully grasp what went wrong and caused the relapse and how you can move forward with the proper measures and support in place to prevent future relapse.

This behavioral chain analysis helps you and your doctor understand what led to the relapse and its consequences. Following this, a solution analysis will determine what you could do differently in the future at each step in the chain, with the ultimate goal of preventing further relapse. If patterns are discovered, a different course of treatment may be suggested.

"For some people, treatment may need to change entirely," says Dr. Patricia Celan, a psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University. "For others, treatment was great, and additional support for a new life circumstance or coaching on improved coping strategies could be the boost you need to have a successful recovery after relapse."

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