Recovery Articles

The Secrets of Recovering From Relapse

So you've found yourself drinking or using drugs again? Or perhaps you haven't reached that stage yet, but all the red flags are waving, and it seems to be only a matter of time before you pick up a drink or drug.

Or maybe you're not an alcoholic or drug user, but have other self-destructive behaviours that you seem to have relapsed into. For example, it is fairly common to reach a nice, stable place of recovery from mental health issues, only to have a few blips and bumps in the road where you return to negative thinking or behaviours.

This post is designed to give you links to the best information I can provide about recovering from relapse - all in one place! Let me tell you, I know a lot about relapse, having been there over and over again before finding strong and solid sobriety. I suffered relaspe not only onto alcohol, but also slid back into negative mental health and unhelpful thinking and behaviours.

Given my expert knowledge of the dark pit of relapse, the way not to recover, and finally the way to recover properly, I thought I'd share some of my top tips with you.

I've written a handy article with the top things you need to do to recover from a relapse and get back on track with your sobriety. Or in the case of people with mental health issues, to return to your recovery and reach a place where you're helping yourself again. You can read my article Recovering from relapse: The 7 R’s on Addiction Blog now. The blog has lots of other brilliant and helpful information for people with addictions and related issues, including more posts on relapse and how to deal with it.

There are also a lot of resources on my YouTube channel, including playlists dedicated to addiction recovery and mental health. Here's a video about what causes a relapse in the first place ---->

And here's another below about how to structure your recovery to avoid relapse:

Do subscribe to receive all the best relapse-related info for free!

Remember you can always check out my books, too, which include the basics of recovery, and how to build more helpful thinking and a happier life, which will protect you from relapse.

If you have relapsed, remember it's not the end of the world - it's a chance to come back stronger! Good luck!

by Beth Burgess

FAQ about Recovery from Addiction and BPD with a Real-Life Recoveree

As someone in recovery from alcoholism and Borderline Personality Disorder, I often get questions about the recovery process. To recover, I mostly did Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), which I now use to help others out of addiction and mental health problems. I then went on to use other tools and practices to work on my recovery further.

I must stress that everyone is an individual, but here are some questions I have been asked, along with my honest answers. I hope you find them helpful.

1.  When did you realise that you had to stop drinking for good, rather than doing controlled drinking?

When I faced the fact that, in reality, I was rarely able to control my drinking. I almost always had more than I planned, and whenever I managed to limit myself to just a few drinks I felt so horribly deprived and grief-stricken at not being "allowed" any more, that it was better not to have any, frankly! Trying to control my drinking became far more painful than just not drinking at all.  

2.  How did you know when treatment was working for you?

I had a breakthrough moment when I was doing DBT. I spoke about it in the first chapters of my book, The Happy Addict. I realised that I was either going to let go of the past and get on with making my life magnificent, or I was going to be condemned to suffering forever. I realised that whatever had happened in the past, and however much I was suffering, I had to be the one who pulled myself out.

I realised that my own thinking, beliefs and behaviours were sabotaging me more than anyone or anything from the past or the present ever could. I had to decide that I would win in the end, and commit to doing that, no matter what. For me, for my family, for my cat. But mostly for me. Because there was no other choice.

All I was doing by fighting reality was losing. If I drank, I was just making myself incapable of solving problems. If I acted out, I was just making myself feel worse about myself. The only thing to do was thoroughly and utterly commit to doing the right thing by me, no matter how I felt. It was only by doing the right things that I even started to like myself.

Our behaviour is what gets us results, including changing how we feel about ourselves. One of my biggest realisations is that I don’t have to act on how I feel. I can choose to do the right things to move forward, no matter how I feel. I never regret doing the right thing, and I always feel better about myself when I choose to act wisely.

3.  Was it a long time before you stopped having more bad than good days?

It was about three months of constantly and stubbornly applying the DBT I was learning until the worst of the days passed. Three months of constantly looking at the positives, constantly fighting down my urges to self-sabotage, constantly doing the right thing. Those three months were the most difficult, and then after that, it got easier to do the right thing – I was seeing how much better I felt for it, and how I could go upwards in life now, rather than downwards. It became like a positive dynamo.

4.  Sometimes Addiction and Mental Health services don't understand. Did you have this and how can this be resolved?

I had people who didn’t care. I had people who didn’t understand. I had to face waiting lists that would take years. Again, those are things I couldn’t control, so I decided that I would largely do it without them. In the end, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks or believes – you can still choose to get better. And you can focus on the people who do understand and are willing to help. They are there if you look for them.

5.  After you stopped drinking, did you switch to anything else, or was drinking the last coping mechanism?

If I have problems now, I either solve them, or if I can’t solve them, I let the feelings go. I don’t need to “cope”. My two options are: solve it or let it go.

6.  How long after stopping drinking did you stop counting days sober, and realise that however hard the work was, it was worth it?

I stopped counting at just under a year. I always knew it was worth it – because the alternative was staying in the misery I was in before. No matter how hard it was, it had to be better than that.

7. Do you believe anyone can recover like you did?

Yes. With all my heart.

If you'd like your questions about recovery answered, drop me a line This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

by Beth Burgess

How to Stop Alcohol Cravings: Top 5 Tips - by Nutritionist Micheal Hilton

I come from a background of addiction and alcoholism, and for me, nutrition is one of the keys to ensuring a long life of happiness and sobriety.

People tend not to think too much about how the food they're eating can impact on their health. Most people I see who are trying to stay sober are filling themselves up with sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Your brain lives off the food you put into your body, and if you don't eat the right foods to support brain function, how do you think that will impact your life?

Studies show that people who suffer from addiction, cravings, alcoholism, and alcohol dependence, are suffering from what is called “Reward Deficiency Syndrome.” Without getting too technical, this is down to low Dopamine.

Dopamine is the prime activator of the pleasure centre. It creates a feeling of wellbeing, ease, love, contentment and peace - and decreases cravings. A deficiency creates anxiety, irritability, depression, and reward-seeking behaviours (ie. drinking).

The amino acids needed to produce Dopamine are L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine. When you start to understand some basic principles about food and the human body, you will understand how important it is to “just eat real food.” Watch the video to find out more and then read my top tips for overcoming cravings below.

Top 5 Tips To Help Overcome Cravings

#1 Raise your levels of L-tyrosine by eating pork, wild game, chicken, turkey or cottage cheese.

#2 Cut out refined carbohydrates. Most people suffering from addiction could go a long way to taking cravings away by cutting out sugar and junk foods.

#3 Balance your macronutrients (food ratios). With every meal you eat, always try to have good fats, protein and good carbohydrates. This will help to stabilize your blood sugar.

#4 Get to bed by 10pm and sleep until 6-7am. A good night's sleep can help with sugar cravings. The body repairs itself physically and mentally between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

#5 Have a simple breakfast. 2-3 poached eggs, cooked in coconut oil with 8-12 ounces of freshly-squeezed orange juice (not carton orange juice, which is full of sugars) will give you a good balance of healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates.

Micheal Hilton is a nutritionist, lifestyle coach and Functional Medicine Practitioner. He specialises in working with addiction, mood problems, cravings and other health complaints. He works on rebalancing the biochemistry of the brain and body to help clients overcome their addiction and cravings. Check out Micheal's blog.

How the 12 Steps Can Help Everyone - by Professor Gabriel Segal

The end of my afflictions and the power of The Twelve Steps

I was born in 1959. From as far back as I can remember until 2011, I suffered from severe forms of anxiety, depression, and addiction. I had many years of therapy of different kinds. I was prescribed pills. None of that helped. And some made matters worse.

Eventually, I thought I would give the 12-step approach a chance. I was initially put off by what appeared to be a strongly religious streak in the program, something that as an analytic philosopher and cognitive scientist, I could not accept. But I soon learnt that no religious beliefs are required for it at all. I was, and remain, an atheist. And the program worked. Brilliantly. I no longer suffer for my afflictions, and I feel entirely serene, relaxed and content. 

How did the 12 steps effect this remarkable transformation?

The basic problem was that I was not happy being myself, as I really am, in this world as it really is. There were three distinguishable sources of discontent involved: 1. Me. 2. The rest of the world. 3. My relationship to the rest of the world. Through the program, I learned how to accept all three and to be content with them. But more than that, I have learned how, by developing my relationship with the world, I can continue to become increasingly serene and happy being me in it.

The steps worked for me in the following five ways:

1. They showed me how to make a thorough and searching examination of myself, without fear or judgement. This enabled me to be realistic and objective about myself, and thus allowed me to begin to deal with the problems.

2. They showed me how to understand and work through my emotional sources of internal strife: anger, resentment, guilt, fear, jealousy, feelings of low self-esteem, wounded pride, disappointment, dissatisfaction, frustration, irritation, existential angst and the like. They showed me how to do this in a methodical and straightforward way, without psychoanalytic interpretation or anything much of that ilk.

3. They showed me how to spot incipient turbulent emotions and nip them in the bud, before they cause me or anyone else too much grief.

4. They showed me how to be realistic about those aspects of the external world that I cannot change and accept them with equanimity.

5. They showed me how to appreciate to the full all that is good in the world and my place in it, and how to go with the flow of life and enjoy the ride.

If you would like to give it a go, I happen to have a written a short, easy-to-follow guide: Twelve Steps To Psychological Good Health and Serenity - A Guide.

Professor Gabriel M. A. Segal is an academic philosopher and author, and has published many papers on addiction and recovery.

This Is An Alcoholic

A piece I wrote before I was in recovery. A bit of a rant at the current addiction treatments too. Do you identify as an alcoholic or addict?

No-one these days seems to understand what an alcoholic is. Middle-class winos, binge-drinking teenagers, hard-drinking journalists or Wall Street party-boys. These people are all labelled as alcoholics of some description. And yet most of them are probably not alcoholics at all.

Can I describe to you what happens when I drink alcohol – and maybe then you will understand what an alcoholic is. I drink alcohol compulsively. Not for fun. Not for stress relief. Not because I have had a hard day or my partner doesn’t love me. Not for any particular reason, but for any reason at all.

In my alcoholic mind, my drinking is always justified - whether I have suffered a bereavement or broken a fingernail. Whether I have lost my lover or lost my keys. And every time before I drink, I tell myself I will only have a little – and I truly believe that at the time. I could take a lie detector test to prove my sincerity that this time will be different. I honestly could.

And yet again, as much as it breaks my heart to say it, I will always end up binging for a week and in hospital again when I can not physically take any more.

I have a strange phenomenon that I call my ‘elastic arm’. Every time I put the bottle down, my arm compulsively reaches up to have one more. It is completely outside of my control to stop drinking once I have started. It sounds quite funny, but it is frustrating, confusing and terrifying. And it has got worse and worse over time.

If I ever try to do anything as sensible as pouring my alcohol into a glass, I can not refrain from simultaneously giving myself three times as much out of the bottle. It is crazy – but that’s what alcoholism is. I can not moderate or learn to control it. I can’t - I’m an alcoholic.

I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop obsessing about it. If I am not drinking it I am planning all sorts of ways to get it. I’m planning on sneaking some into the house, drinking yours and anyone else’s. I will raise all hell if I can’t have it. I will start a row to run away and have it. I will beg and cry and demean my own dignity to get it. I am trapped in a prison that looks like a glass. This is alcoholism.

It can happen to anybody. I happen to be a well-educated young female with a loving family and a lot to live for. My alcoholism started when I was only 18 years old. Alcoholism knows no rules, restrictions or social boundaries – it is an illness.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I am tired of the media, I am tired of the misunderstanding. I am tired of the confusion. I am tired of health care professionals mislabelling and mistreating.

Why don’t you differentiate the real alcoholics from the people who have other drink problems? Most people who are labelled as alcoholics probably have do problems – but they are not the same as mine.

Why does it matter? Because we need to acknowledge the difference properly. We need to understand so that the stigmatisation of alcoholics does not continue. We can not just stop – it takes a lot of work, because we do not have a choice. Stop tutting at me in public and sighing, as if I were just irresponsible. I’m not. I’m an alcoholic. I’m ill.

Not only that but it matters greatly in terms of treatments. An alcohol worker of mine once insisted I complete a drink diary each week to see what my ‘triggers’ were and see if I could cut down. I could have cried – as if I could control it. As if I even had enough gumption to write out every unit I drank. I didn’t have a clue.

They are always talking about modifying the diagnostic criteria to include other addictions, to account for people overshopping, overeating and watching too much TV. I am sure that there are proper addicts among you, too. I am sure that there are some people who are as ill as me and are slaves to other behaviours and substances. But not all of you.

Some of you can control it if you want to, but indulge because it’s more enjoyable than facing reality. Some of you may be flippantly calling yourself addicts, but before using that word, spare a thought for those who live in a world of compulsion and pain and can not get out. You have your pain too, but do not call yourself an addict unless you are sure, because it leads to the dilution of the understanding of true addiction.

I ask the government and the healthcare professionals to understand what it is I am facing. I ask the hospital staff not to look at me with disdain and judgmental eyes. I ask for understanding and care for my condition.

I am an alcoholic. I am an addict. Treat me like a patient, not a leper. Treat me like the scared, ill human being I am. Understand my illness. Understand how it works, how it feels. Understand I did not choose this life. Understand me. Help me. Diagnose me properly. Treat me effectively. And care for me with humanity and with empathy in your heart.

Please share this addiction awareness piece if you want to break addiction stigma.

by Beth Burgess

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