Relapses happen. Here are some tips for getting things back on track, regardless of the specific compulsions you’re dealing with:
1. Don’t turn this into an excuse to dig the hole deeper. You know what’s at the bottom of a hole? More hole. Often when we relapse, we use that as an excuse to go even deeper into our compulsions. We tell ourselves things like, “Oh, you’ve already done it, so you may as well keep going. Tomorrow you’ll quit it again.” And then two years of tomorrows later, you’re wondering what happened…
2. Don’t stick labels on yourself. You are in-charge of your judgements. If you judge a relapse as bad or a weakness or terrible or a let-down or anything you can think of, you’re just going to complicate recovery. Don’t make this any tougher by weighing yourself down with tons of labels.
3. Learn about the path that brought you here. Relapses don’t fall out of the sky. We walk our way to them. So this is a great opportunity to learn about your brain. If this is a path you don’t want to walk down again, keep track of the scenery and the animals you saw on your way off this cliff. Next time you find yourself in a similar landscape, stop, figure out a new path. No matter how many times you walk down that old path, it always ends in the same place, so learn how to recognize when you’re on it.
4. Remember that you are a unique and special snowflake, BUT… many millions of people are going through the exact same struggles you are every day. So get help and support. Many people succeed at recovery. No matter how many excuses your brain makes about why those people are different from you, there’s a lot you can learn from them and they’ll probably be happy to share because they know exactly what you’re going through.
5. Shift your focus from the thing you don’t want to the thing you do want. If your identity is built around recovering from a problem, you will always need that problem nearby, and that increases the chances of slipping back into it. Instead of saying: “Here are the unhealthy things I’m trying to stop” shift it to “Here are the healthy things I’m trying to start.” Put those healthy things at the core of your identity. Give yourself those healthy options so you can make a conscious decision to pursue them when your brain is trying to pull you back into your compulsions.