What Should I Do if I Relapse During AA?

If you relapse during AA, it can be a difficult journey. However, relapse is common, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, just like in the case of other chronic diseases like “diabetes, hypertension, and asthma,” and it is important to understand that this can occur. It doesn’t mean you have failed or that AA has failed you; just that you should continue with your recovery and do the best you can.

How Should I Handle My Relapse?

Relapse in AA

Reaching out to a sponsor after a relapse can help reduce feelings of guilt and shame.

Relapse can feel good at first, but after attending AA for a time, and especially after going through a full treatment regimen with the use of pharmaceuticals and/or behavioral therapy, drinking will usually not feel the same as it used to when you were an alcoholic who wasn’t actively trying to recover. This can cause many people to feel ashamed and unhappy, but it is important to reach out to others instead of keeping your feelings inside.

  • If you have a sponsor, tell them what happened. When the issue is immediate, they can sit with you until you sober up and help you work through the problem. It is especially important that you are not alone right after you relapse or if you begin to feel ashamed or depressed because of it, as this could lead to suicidal thoughts. Reach out for help immediately, either from your sponsor, another AA member, a family member, or a friend.
  • You can begin to attend meetings again, and you will be able to start over with your chips. You won’t have to give the chips you already earned back.
  • If you feel comfortable talking about your experience, it may be helpful, but you do not have to discuss it with the group if you don’t. Just make sure you reach out to someone so they can know what you’re feeling.
  • Consider another type of treatment to supplement your AA meetings. Perhaps you still feel like AA is helpful to you or maybe you want to start a different program entirely, but it could be helpful to begin another type of treatment regimen that can allow you to look at your recovery from a different angle.

Have I Failed in My Alcohol Recovery?

Relapse is very common. As stated by the NIDA, “Unfortunately, when relapse occurs many deem treatment a failure. This is not the case: Successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases.” Your recovery has not failed when you relapse and neither has your treatment. The most important thing to do after going through a relapse is to protect yourself and allow others to help you.

AA is a judgment-free group, and no individual should be made to feel bad about what they have done or what has happened to them because of their addiction to or abuse of alcohol. If you relapse back to alcohol use, make sure to take care of yourself and just continue with your recovery. You do not have to start over, but you just have to see it as another part of your process. If you have more questions about AA––or the possibility of alcohol relapse––call 800-839-1686 today.

How Our Helpline Works

If you're seeking addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, the AlcoholicsAnonymous.com helpline offers a convenient and private solution to assist you. Our caring treatment advisors are ready to take your call anytime, day or night. Calls are answered 24/7 to discuss treatment and recovery options.

Your call is routed to a general helpline call center where caring admissions coordinators can help you decide what treatment option is right for yourself or for your loved one. Our helpline is NOT affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous/AA nor does AA sponsor the treatment options that are recommended when you call.

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