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What to do if you lapse or relapse

If you’ve had a drink or used drugs again after stopping for a while, it can be difficult to know how to move forwards.

You might be feeling guilty, like you’ve let people down, or that you’ve thrown away your hard work.

It’s completely normal to feel that way, but it’s not the full picture.

A lapse is not a disaster

Having a lapse or relapse is a setback, but it’s not the end of the road.

Recovery is a process of learning. Sometimes it takes a while, and it’s never a straight line.

Lapses, relapses and other setbacks are totally normal. You might feel bad right now, but that will pass. Whether this is your first lapse or not, this is a chance to:

  • learn more about your triggers and how to avoid them
  • show people how they can help you in future
  • find new ways to cope with problems in your daily life

Deciding whether to tell someone

It’s your decision whether to tell someone about your lapse or relapse.

It’s totally normal to want to protect the feelings of your loved ones. And for some people, talking about your lapse could risk your personal safety or your living situation.

But if you can, there are big benefits to talking about your experience. You could start by looking at our advice on how to tell someone about your drinking or drug use.

And as well as talking to your friends or family, this could also be the time to get some professional help.

If you're already in treatment

If you’re already seeing a treatment service, then telling your worker about your lapse makes it easier for them to help you.

They are trained to understand that treatment is a process, not a quick fix.

It’s understandable if you don’t want to let them down. But if you do tell them about your lapse or relapse, they will be glad you did.

It will help them understand more about your situation, so they can work with you to make lapses or relapses less likely in future.

If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, the trained advisors from our webchat team can give you some free and confidential advice.

Chat to us online

If you're not in treatment

If you’re not already seeing a treatment service, now could be a good time to speak to one.

It’s a big achievement to get this far without professional help. But speaking to a service can give you even more support.

We have more than 80 free and confidential services across England and Scotland who can help.

No problem is too big or too small. We can help you whatever stage you’re at: whether this is your first lapse or just the latest.

Find a service

And if you’re not ready to take that step, you can speak to one of our trained advisors online. They can offer you free and confidential advice about what to do next.

Chat to us online

More help and advice

Our website has helpful advice and guides to help you cut down or stop drinking or using drugs - or just stay safe and healthy.