What Should You Do After a Relapse?

by Jeff Fisher on September 3, 2013

Guest blogger Tom Daniels and his wife Linda work regularly with couples and individuals struggling with sexual addiction in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.  Tom has over a decade of experience leading groups and working with guys in crisis.  He is a personal mentor to me.

Tom answers three key questions about relapse:

MondayWhat does relapse look like?
TuesdayWhat should you do after a relapse?
WednesdayHow can you help a friend who relapses?


The most important, and difficult step is to go back to square one (or step-1 in AA) and admit that you have a problem and are powerless to deal with on their own. Getting back into recovery after a slip is tough enough, but after a relapse it is very difficult and painful.  You have to realize and admit how much you have deceived everyone you had worked so hard to build trust with, especially your spouse! In many cases, the spouse’s initial anger and sense of betrayal when they first found out is exponentially greater when they find out that the addict has relapsed.

The addict needs a great amount of courage to come forward with his situation and be transparent again.  Recovery is not possible without that step.  It helps if the addict comes forward on his own, rather than being caught.  Then the recovery process can begin on a better footing. Getting caught is not usually a good motivator for real recovery.

True freedom from addiction can only come when the motive for the addict to be completely free from the bondage and the things that caused the addiction in the first place. This can only come  when they get beyond the fear of punishment and truly move into the desire to live for Christ at all costs.

The addict also needs to accept that he has let everyone around him down. He has lied to them, deceived them, abused their trust, and manipulated them for his own ends. That is going to result in some level of hurt feelings and anger, some of it unrecoverable. If the addict only wants to be sober so that he can save his marriage, he is going to fail in both goals. He must want to be free so that he can live a real life.  His marriage, job, family, friends, etc. have to take a backseat to that goal.

Go back to your accountability partner, group, counselor, etc. and disclose all of what you have been involved in. Let them guide you in how to break this to your spouse but understand that they are likely to respond very negatively to this news. Break all ties to your addictive lifestyle, regardless of the cost. Too many times we addicts will justify keeping an addictive relationship open because of concern for the other person. This is a lie and needs to be seen for what it is. Break it off completely and be done with it forever!

Breaking a relapse may mean some drastic steps…getting rid of computers, canceling Facebook accounts, even getting rid of your cell phone. It could mean changing jobs if that is a major trigger for you. I know these things sound over the top but you are either committed to getting set free or you are not. Holding onto these things is a way of keeping that door open just a little.

You need to be willing to close it, lock it, and throw away the key!

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