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For those of us who have been struggling with addiction for any length of time, chances are we’ve experienced relapse and all of the pain that comes along with it. We give so much energy to wanting to be clean, sober or abstinent that we create expectations for ourselves, some of which can be unrealistic and unreasonably hard to live up to. We expect ourselves to succeed the first time around and are bitterly disappointed when we fail. We expect ourselves not to need help or support, and to be able to recover alone. When we don’t live up to our expectations, we are filled with shame and regret. We feel guilty, embarrassed and disgusted with ourselves. We can feel like we don’t recognize ourselves. We can feel like our addictive urges act like a wave that washes over us, causing us to feel totally removed from our true selves. As soon as the urge passes, we struggle to come to terms with what our urges made us do, the mistakes we made, the regret we feel.

Relapse is a common but difficult part of the recovery process. So many of us experience it. We’re told that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, that it’s a normal part of the recovery process to be expected, and that beating ourselves up will only make us more likely to engage in our addictive behaviors to cope with the pain of our self-judgment. We have a hard time forgiving ourselves, even when we’re advised that we need to have self-forgiveness and self-acceptance to fully recover. We have a hard time not inundating ourselves with shame, even though we know it doesn’t serve us. All the disappointment we feel in ourselves can end up holding us back, because we’re giving it all our energy and focus, rather than choosing to focus on how we can do better moving forward.

When we relapse, we can use the experience not as a reason to be unkind to ourselves but as a reminder of why our sobriety is so crucial. We’re reminded just how important it is to us to be clear, present and conscious. We’re reminded just how far off track our urges can take us. We’re reminded how much happier we are when we’re doing what is best for ourselves and working towards our goals. We remember the sting of defeat and the bitterness of disappointment, and moving forward, we have a visceral, tangible reminder to help us stave off addictive urges as they arise. We can choose to think of our relapses not as evidence of our failure but as motivation to try harder, to love ourselves more, and to never give up.

The treatment programs at Riverside Recovery, including the Intensive Outpatient Program, are designed to help you achieve your goals in recovery and to prevent relapse. Call (800) 871-5440 today for more information.