If I relapse, have I failed with my recovery from substance abuse?

Robert Rozsay
Addiction Medicine
In the process of inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison found 2000 ways that did not work. Relapse is telling you to try a different way. The substance abuser has to figure out what doesn't work for him/her and develop a personal set of rules that they must live by to stay sober. When the rules come from outside of yourself, you can break or bend them but, when you own them you can't.
Kathy Sowder
Kathy Sowder on behalf of MDLIVE
A relapse does not have to mean failure. Some people do relapse and continue to use, but many people are motivated to return to a sober/straight lifestyle, and do what they need to do to do so, such as tell supportive people, return to 12 step meetings, and identify what caused the relapse, so they can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. In this case, a relapse can be used as a learning opportunity, and sometimes even increases a person`s motivation to stay clean and sober.
Fredrick Wade
Addiction Medicine
No. A relapse does not constitute failure. First we should define relapse. A fully realized relapse is best described as a return to active use that is typically followed by the resurgence of psychological or physical dependence. A lapse is when someone uses once or perhaps twice, tells their counselor or someone else in their support network and takes action to get back on track with their recovery. In this situation recovery may become stronger as the person learns from the lapse and diminishes his or her chance of lapsing in this manner again. While a lapse is unfortunate it should still be seen as one of the most hands on and insightful opportunities to garner information about an individual's here and now recovery needs.
No, a slip up and relapse does not mean that you have failed your recovery from substance abuse. Try to determine what caused the relapse -- typically negative feelings -- and try to head them off for the next time. Warning signs of a relapse include feeling angry or powerless, skipping counseling sessions or group meetings and spending time with people you used to drink with. Also, prematurely thinking you’re cured may also signal a relapse.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.