by Devon Berkheiser, Psy.D.
Recovery from addiction is rarely a straight path; for most people, it involves some slips and mistakes along the way. Even though slips happen to most people in recovery, they can be very tough to deal with, eliciting feelings of shame, guilt, and even hopelessness. However, allowing those feelings to overwhelm you can actually lead to further slips and a full-blown relapse. While it can be challenging, it is often beneficial to stay positive after having a slip. Here are 4 tips for doing just that:
1. Challenge Your Negative Beliefs
What are you telling yourself about your slip? Perhaps you are telling yourself that all of your progress has been lost, or that recovery is completely hopeless. Maybe you are labeling yourself a loser. Such negative thoughts are common after a slip, but they may also be unrealistic and dangerous. Instead of automatically buying into your thoughts, try challenging them. Are there alternative beliefs that may be true? What is the evidence for and against your negative thoughts? By challenging your beliefs, you may be able to recognize that things aren’t as dire as you had initially thought. Doing so can help you take a more positive and realistic approach to dealing with the slip.
2. Think About the Bright Side
After a slip, it’s easy to focus on what went wrong, while completely neglecting what went right. The fact that you had some sober time suggests that you have some coping skills and tools for managing addictive behaviors. Recognize those coping skills and keep using them! And remember that a mistake does not negate all of the positive progress that you have made.
3. Focus On the Future
When we make a mistake, we have a choice: we can dwell on it, or we can choose to learn from it and move forward. Acceptance is a crucial part of moving forward. Acknowledge your feelings about the slip, but don’t let yourself get bogged down by guilt and shame. Instead, think about what lessons you can learn from the experience so that you don’t make the same mistakes in the future. Then, get back on track and keep working toward your goals.
4. Get Some Support
Share your feelings and concerns with somebody that you trust, such as a friend, therapist, or member of a mutual help group. Hearing how others have also made mistakes can normalize your experience, helping you to realize that mistakes happen to everybody. Additionally, your supporters may be able to provide advice for how to avoid future slips. Shame makes sharing your struggles difficult, but getting support can help you feel less hopeless and alone.
If you’ve recently had a slip and need help getting back on track, give us a call. Whether you need just a few sessions or more intensive treatment, including outpatient treatment, residential rehab or sober living, our addiction specialists can help.
Learn more about recovery maintenance and how to keep making progress as you recover from addiction.