5 Relapse Recovery Tips

Relapses happen. Here are some tips for getting things back on track, regardless of the specific compulsions you’re dealing with:

1. Don’t turn this into an excuse to dig the hole deeper. You know what’s at the bottom of a hole? More hole. Often when we relapse, we use that as an excuse to go even deeper into our compulsions. We tell ourselves things like, “Oh, you’ve already done it, so you may as well keep going. Tomorrow you’ll quit it again.” And then two years of tomorrows later, you’re wondering what happened…

2. Don’t stick labels on yourself. You are in-charge of your judgements. If you judge a relapse as bad or a weakness or terrible or a let-down or anything you can think of, you’re just going to complicate recovery. Don’t make this any tougher by weighing yourself down with tons of labels.

3. Learn about the path that brought you here. Relapses don’t fall out of the sky. We walk our way to them. So this is a great opportunity to learn about your brain. If this is a path you don’t want to walk down again, keep track of the scenery and the animals you saw on your way off this cliff. Next time you find yourself in a similar landscape, stop, figure out a new path. No matter how many times you walk down that old path, it always ends in the same place, so learn how to recognize when you’re on it.

4. Remember that you are a unique and special snowflake, BUT… many millions of people are going through the exact same struggles you are every day. So get help and support. Many people succeed at recovery. No matter how many excuses your brain makes about why those people are different from you, there’s a lot you can learn from them and they’ll probably be happy to share because they know exactly what you’re going through.

5. Shift your focus from the things you don’t want to the things you do want. If your identity is built around recovering from a problem, you will always need that problem nearby, and that increases the chances of slipping back into it. Instead of saying: “Here are the unhealthy things I’m trying to stop” shift it to “Here are the healthy things I’m trying to start.” Put those healthy things at the core of your identity. Give yourself those healthy options so you can make a conscious decision to pursue them when your brain is trying to pull you back into your compulsions.

5 comments On 5 Relapse Recovery Tips

  • Hey mark . I just want to say what a tremendous help you’ve been to me, both before I sought professional help and since . Two years ago my ocd came to a head and I had a very hard time , but your videos have been such a help. They encouraged me to get help, gave me hope and now I understand so much more of the ideas you put forward . Acceptance !!! I get it !! As my therapist says ‘ it’s like a chattering aunt you don’t like much but she’s gonna talk this stuff qt you anyway regardless of its accuracy !why listen ??’ .

    Anyhow, I’m so grateful for your help and for helping me in my journey from such a dark place . Just want to say thanks !!

    If your ever in London beers on me !!


    • Thanks for the message and the future beers, Anthony! I’m glad the videos have helped and it’s great you’re making progress on this journey. Keep ignoring that chattering aunt as you do all of the things you want to do in life!

  • very powerfull tips here i like especially #5 🙂

  • I totally agree these tips. Especially the five one because I lived it on my own experience. I tried to no engage into compulsions, to not make bad choises, but then, I started to see all things around me as bad and I spend time assuring, rationalizing, checking if is good to do them or not. Obviously, the fear and uncertainty increased so much. Then, I understand that I must shift the focus on healthy actions rather then removing unhealthy ones and I start taking steps in this direction. It`s hard because at each choise, I feel the fear of not doing bad decision. But I`m optimist and I am ready to make efforts in order to build great mental health. Thank you for the amazing support. You`re a great and wonderful person.

  • Hey Mark, great article! I really needed the number five, but I have a question. When you say “healthy actions”, it would be all the things that I know I need/want to do? Acceptance, experiencing the fear and anxiety after the trigger without engaging in compulsions, things that I care about, mindfulness, etc?

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