Relapse as a Learning Opportunity

Relapse Workshop: Relapse as a Learning Opportunity

Estimated watch time: 4 mins 40 secs


Relapse isn’t inevitable, but it is common. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. If you do slip or relapse, what’s most important is that you use it as a learning experience going forward. Look at your relapse as a way to gain insight that can help you prevent a similar situation in the future.

This video offers questions you can ask yourself.

Video Materials:

Related Content:
Accompanying Worksheets:

There are lessons accompanying each video that you can access through our recovery portal, Swell or you can download, here. (Lesson 1)

Medically-reviewed articles:
Professional webinars:

Relapse Workshop: Relapse as a Learning Opportunity

Hi everybody, We are going to be talking about relapse prevention and how you could recover from having a slip or even a full on relapse and what you might be able to do differently to put in some safety nets and make it less likely for you to repeat a relapse.

So in this lesson, we’re going to talk about how relapse is actually a learning opportunity.

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, which means that relapse is very common. It doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. You certainly don’t want to use that phrase as a justification to relapse. But it does happen and it can happen. And so what’s most important is that you use relapse as an opportunity to learn about your recovery program and maybe what you can do differently to decrease your chances of another relapse.

So you may hear people talking about a lapse or a slip. This is when you have a single incident of using maybe you’re just used for one day as opposed to a relapse, which is considered a full blown episode of using. You keep using over a period of time.

Now, relapses or lapses can happen due to an emotional or an environmental trigger. So could be due to stress, a major life event, something traumatic that happens, feeling irritable, being bored, feeling overwhelmed, being hungry, angry, lonely, tired, which is often put together with feeling depleted in some way.

So lapses or relapses can start in the mind and the body days or weeks before using actually start. So it’s a good idea to learn to get to know when that relapse actually started to happen.

And lapses are important opportunities for you to develop insight into what you are feeling, where you were or who was there.

Learning to be mindful about our thoughts and feelings can help us restrain from acting in unmindful ways or acting impulsively without thinking, where the relapse just happens automatically. When we regularly practice paying attention to our thoughts and feelings, we can become more relaxed about them, become more curious about them, and get to know them, which reduces reacting to them.

So in the exercise after this lesson, think back to a recent lapse or relapse and answer these questions: when did you first have the urge to use? What specific day and time? Where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing? And what were the people around you doing?

What was your mood earlier that day? What was your mood earlier that week? How long had you experienced urges to relapse before you did use? Did you tell anyone about the urges? If so, who and if not, how come? Did you consider doing anything else to cope with your urges? And if so, what?

Looking back, what do you think you could have done differently? What thoughts did you have that you think contributed to the lapse? Which of these thoughts could you label unhelpful? And what thoughts did you have that you would say was your inner critic? What feelings do you think contributed to the lapse? What pleasurable feelings were you trying to create or what difficult feelings were you trying to get rid of?

Think about what might have helped you to respond to the thoughts and feelings you were having at that time without using drugs or alcohol. Would it have been easier to access a support person? Did you need an obvious in your face reminder of distraction techniques for riding out urges? Did you need to practice more healthy coping skills? Did you need more support in your daily life or better boundaries with people who pressure you to use or treat you in ways that lead you to want to use? Did you need a safe place to go when you started to feel urges? or did you need a chance to talk to a therapist to find out what keeps driving you to use?

Is there anything else you can think of? What would it take to do things differently next time?

In our next lesson, we’re going to talk about self-forgiveness.

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