We are so proud of you son.  Ahh…the words you’d be longing to hear since years of disappointing so many people were finally starting to dissipate.  One day at a time the sun seemed to shine a little brighter and small tasks like opening the mail got a little easier.  Then all of the sudden, you are hit by an overwhelming desire to take a drink. And then you actually take the drink.

It is important to know that substance use disorder is considered a chronic illness.  While there is no cure, it can and must be treated on a daily basis.  What is most difficult is after having a period of sobriety followed by relapse can leave you feeling as though you may be a hopeless case.  This is far from the truth and if you are able to view alcoholism as a chronic illness instead of a moral issue, then you can stop beating yourself up and take the right steps to get back up on your feet.

If you or a loved one has recently experienced a relapse, being clear on these five things can help you make the right move and possible save your life:

  1. Substance use disorder is a chronic illness that can be You aren’t a bad person or a failure because you relapsed.  Relapse can be baffling to loved ones but even more so to the alcoholic themselves.  Understand that it is not uncommon and by no mean tattoos FAILURE on your forehead.

  2. The pain of withdrawal shouldn’t matter more than your own life. We get it, the thought of withdrawing from alcohol and/or your drug of choice seems like a plausible reason to keep using but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Identify the type of treatment you need to manage your withdrawal and commit to it sooner than later.  This could mean entering a medical detox program or could be as simple as going right back to an AA or NA meeting and taking your newcomer chip again. Do whatever it takes and do it as soon as possible, especially when later might never come.

  3. Spiritual growth just doesn’t happen sober. On page xx of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions it reads “xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.”  In other words our greatest spiritual growth can happen during a relapse with our eyes more opened to our condition and the loving God that is always available to us.  Understanding that for some people their relapse can become a major awakening toward a stronger faith, commitment to recovery and even a more enjoyable life in sobriety should be further motivation to get right back to it.

  4. Ask for help. There is a saying around the recovery world that “we don’t kill our wounded.”  If you are too ashamed to ask for help rest assured this is entirely your own perception.  Anyone in recovery and even at church understands what you are going through and possibly even better than you do.  Remember you aren’t exactly thinking clearly and would benefit from the compassion and guidance of someone who is.

  5. Be open to addressing issues beyond your substance use. Often our time in recovery that leads up to a relapse seems to be about putting down the drink or drug.  As we acquire a deeper understanding of our disease, we find this is just a symptom of our problem.  Once you have found the right treatment for your withdrawal and have given yourself time to clear your mind, consider the possibility of a dual diagnosis and the need to address certain brain functions affected by drug abuse.  (A medical detox program will offer these services in a safe environment and have tremendous results toward maintaining sobriety.