Returning to sober living after a stumble can be one of the single hardest parts of addiction recovery—and it’s a challenge even those most committed to their recovery can find themselves facing. It’s important we recognize that a single instance of weakness need not be the beginning of habitual failure, that a stumble need not knock you wholly off the path to sobriety, and that each relapse into addiction teaches us more about who we are and what we need to do to stay on the wagon.
1. Examine what went wrong. Taking a step back and looking at where things went wrong helps on multiple levels. It lets you process the event with a bit of distance—view it as if it were someone else struggling with sober living, not yourself. What set things off? What feelings or events marked the tipping point? Were tools for resisting the urge to drink inadequate, or did they go unused? The more you understand the event, the better you can set it aside and move on confidently.
2. Get things back to normal. Don’t try to fix things with a grand gesture or some bizarre new trick. As much as is possible, you want to return to the methods which have been working for you so far. Get back to basics and get back on track. Once you’ve normalized and put your stumble behind you, you can start looking for ways to smooth out the path ahead, but it’s very important that you get things as normal as possible beforehand; aiming for grand gestures and massive changes from a position of weakness only sets you up for failure.
3. Evaluate new tools or methods. You’ve examined what went wrong and normalized, but how do you prevent future missteps? Do you need a new way to hold yourself accountable? If you haven’t spent time in one before, you might benefit from a stint at a sober home, where you can have professional and peer assistance with sober living and with developing long-term strategies to stay on the wagon. You might need to find a support group to talk with; in person, online, for addiction recovery or for general moral support. Read up on tricks to add to your repertoire to avoid bad situations and bad outcomes; ways to think, ways to act, ways to distract yourself.