Learning Self- Forgiveness After Relapse

Relapse Workshop: Learning Self- Forgiveness After Relapse

Estimated watch time: 4 mins


Everyone makes mistakes. If you’re in recovery, a relapse may be one of those. Relapses are incredibly common, but you can’t get stuck in a cycle of anger at yourself.

This guide walks you through how to learn self-forgiveness and put it into practice so you can move forward.

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 2)

Medically-reviewed articles:
Professional webinars:

Relapse Workshop: Self Forgiveness

This lesson is about self forgiveness for your relapse.

When you’ve used drugs or alcohol for a long time to cope with painful emotions or stress, it can be extremely difficult to let go of that strategy.

Relapsing is really just a return to an ineffective coping strategy. So labeling yourself a failure from making a mistake can make it very hard for you to get back on track. It keeps you in a self-perpetuating place where you just keep relapsing because you’re making yourself feel bad.

If you can treat relapse as a learning opportunity, you can make your recovery program stronger.

There are people who will judge you and make unfair assumptions about your character because of your addictive use. There is also a stigma you feel because you assume people are judging you when they may not be. There is also self-stigma when you have negative feelings about yourself because you’re addicted.

Focusing on internal and external stigma can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and shame, these feelings of shame can make it very difficult to return to recovery. Shame needs understanding, empathy and compassion in order to heal. So when these feelings come up for you, talking about these feelings with a therapist, a friend or a family member who can be compassionate is what’s going to be most helpful for you.

It’s natural to feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed after a relapse. Acknowledging what happened, apologizing for anything negative that happened as a result, and recommitting to recovery are the best ways to ensure that guilt and shame don’t linger.

You don’t need to beat yourself up. It only prolongs the painful emotions that can trigger further use. Encouraging yourself to behave differently going forward will result in a more positive effect on your actions.

You are the product of your conditioning, your genetics, your environment and your culture. Recognizing that you’re operating from a framework of various factors can help you see that your supposed shortcomings don’t make you inherently worse than anybody else. Your struggles are a part of what makes you human. And everybody has struggles.

Without self-forgiveness, your shame can lead you to get defensive, make excuses for lapsing, or blame others for your behaviors. Acknowledging your faults without getting defensive allows you to use criticism and corrective feedback to help you improve. Self-forgiveness shows that you’re willing to forgive others, too. You are demonstrating that it’s OK to be human and to make mistakes.

So in the exercise after this lesson, you can fill in the information that will help you with self-forgiveness.

What mistakes are the hardest for you to forgive yourself? What beliefs, past messages, thoughts, or feelings make it hard to forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve listed? What beliefs, experiences or feelings have taught you that you are expected to be good all the time to be perfect and not make mistakes?

Have you ever put unrealistic expectations on yourself or other people? Has someone ever put unrealistic expectations on you? To whom do you owe an apology for the mistakes that you’ve made?

And what will you do differently going forward? To show that you’re earning forgiveness for your actions?

In lesson three, we’re going to talk about the warning signs of a relapse.

Thank you for choosing The Recovery Village. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health or substance abuse and would like to find out more about the programs we offer, please reach out to us directly at 855-387-3291.

Other Addiction & Mental Health Resources

The Recovery Village has several, free resources for those living with addiction or mental health conditions and their loved ones. From videos, to clinically-hosted webinars and recovery meetings, to helpful, medically-reviewed articles, there is something for everyone. If you need more direct help, please reach out to one of our representatives.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.