Relapse: Learning Opportunity or Failure?

We all have those moments when we struggle to stay on the wagon. Maybe you couldn’t maintain a diet for a few weeks, but then one day you just couldn’t resist that bowl of ice cream. Or you quit smoking for over 6 months, but then one night out with friends turns into an epic night of drinking and smoking. Is it time to give up? Absolutely not! We can see relapse as either a failure or an opportunity for growth. Here’s how to handle both with grace.

Be Kind to Yourself

When you relapse, the first thing to do is cut yourself some slack. You can’t expect perfection all the time and it’s okay if your goals aren’t met every single day, week, or month. Lapses are bound to happen, so don’t beat yourself up about them – just use them as a learning opportunity instead and take steps for recovery.

If you felt ashamed or embarrassed about it, that’s okay, too. Give yourself some time to reflect on what happened with no judgment. You might be surprised by how much insight you can gain from even the most basic of mistakes.

Create a Plan

Work with what went wrong and create a new plan. Was there a time when you didn’t follow through with your recovery efforts and that led to the relapse? What can you do in the future to prevent it from happening again? Maybe you need more support, or there is something different about your environment that needs to change.

Identify Triggers

Identifying triggers before they cause harm will help prevent future relapses. If you can’t find what caused your relapse, that’s okay too. Maybe it was a combination of many minor factors and, if so, try to work with those instead.


Knowing how to cope after a lapse without sacrificing self-respect or hope is important as well. You don’t have to beat yourself up or feel you failed because of one mistake. Try to be kind and forgiving with yourself instead.

Don’t Let Relapse Define You

Don’t let your relapse define you. Work on figuring out what went wrong, create a plan that will prevent it from happening again, learn something new about yourself in the process and then move forward! Don’t let it hold you back. Instead, use this moment as an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself!

What’s the difference between relapse and failure? This is a question that many people ask themselves when they slip back into old habits. A key distinction to make in this case is what you’re trying to do with your life after you’ve found yourself in an uncomfortable situation, either because of addiction or lapse. We can see failure as giving up on oneself, while we should consider relapse more of a learning opportunity than anything else.

With this mindset, it becomes easier to rebound from any slip-ups without feeling like we’ve let ourselves down. It also helps us maintain self-respect because, instead of viewing our mistakes as failures, we see them for what they are—learning opportunities that allow us to put together new strategies for dealing with triggers before they happen. Click here for more information on where you can find support and a rehab center near you.

Cheryl Henson

Cheryl Henson is a passionate blogger and digital marketing professional who loves writing, reading, and sharing blogs on various topics.

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