When Your First Setback Isn’t Relapse 

When Your First Setback Isn’t Relapse 

The essence of sobriety isn’t just preventing the conditions for relapse; though we might yearn for a fix to prevent suffering, difficulty, grief, physical pain, it simply doesn’t exist. It might be a breakup or a death in the family. Your job could be outsourced or you may be forced to move unexpectedly. 

All of these life events can cause significant pain and discomfort. Often, while we’re worrying about maintaining our sobriety through the holidays, what we also need to be able to do is learn—with our own wisdom and the guidance of sobriety—how to handle emotional pain without the crutch of a substance. In other words, your suffering didn’t stop because you became well. You just have more tools to deal with it now.

When you emerge back into the world with new eyes and a commitment to sobriety, it’s easier to feel optimistic. But like Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched.” So now you’ve been punched. The tips are the same regardless of the stakes (i.e., whether grieving the death of a parent or a surprise breakup).

  • Before taking any action and as soon as you can, get in touch with your sponsor or recovery team. A sober friend is always helpful if you can’t reach professionals right away.
  • Feel the feelings rather than turn away from them. Aversion to pain is a natural biological process, but it’s one that can hasten the healing process if you don’t bury everything inside.
  • If you are feeling that your sobriety is especially vulnerable, it might be best to stay with sober friends or family if you can. It will make you feel more connected and less prone to isolation.
  • Write and journal about what’s going on. Take stock of what would happen were you to take this moment of heartbreak (which, like everything, is impermanent) and use it as a pretext to abandon sobriety. You would be hurting yourself twice.

This certainly isn’t a catch-all for every situation. It’s critical to reach out at the times when life seems out of control. When these times happen, as they happen to everyone, know that for those in recovery, that first setback can set the tone for relapse or redemption. Always choose redemption. You’re worth that.

The cycle of addiction and relapse can stop at Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California. We are a premiere men’s addiction treatment facility that uses eight different modalities to help our men become the best versions of themselves they can be. We teach our men that every day of their journey is something to celebrate and that recovery isn’t a sprint—it’s a marathon. To get started with Tree House Recovery, call us today at (855) 202-2138

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