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Oops! I Did It Again: From Relapse to Reality Check


Woman with a pink post-it note on her palm that has a black x written on it

Picture this: You’re driving down the highway of life, feeling like you’ve got it all figured out. You’re cruising along, windows down, hair whipping in the breeze, and BAM! Suddenly, you have to slam on the brakes. Maybe you find yourself in familiar territory, seemingly having driven backwards on your path, and the inevitable face-palm moment sets in. This, my friend, is what some refer to as a relapse, but what I prefer to call a “reality check“: a wake-up call to reassess your strategies and realign with your goals. It’s not always a comfortable experience, but trust me—it can offer a wealth of wisdom and personal growth if we allow it.


Reality check = a wake-up call to reassess your strategies and realign with your goals


In our shared journey towards a healthier relationship with alcohol, we may encounter hurdles. But isn’t it our response to such hurdles that truly defines our progress? This article will delve into how to bounce back from those relapses or reality checks while maintaining a positive outlook and transforming setbacks into stepping stones.



Finding the Beauty in the Bruise

Life has a funny way of throwing curveballs at us when we least expect it. We might find ourselves slipping back into old habits or facing internal or external challenges. At a party, when an offered drink has won over your resolve, choose curiosity over shame. What feelings drove you to accept it? A desire to fit in, to feel celebratory, maybe to shake off lingering awkwardness?


Or perhaps during a weekend at home, a sudden urge to drink sweeps over you — yes, that’s a reality check. It helps us understand our emotional triggers better: loneliness, boredom, anxiety, or a deeply ingrained habit of marking the end of a workweek.


It’s not about never stumbling but about how we rise when we do.


If the path toward your goal were free of challenges, everyone would do it. But those challenges are there, and you don’t need to do things perfectly to reach your goal. In fact, the pursuit of perfection can often steer us away from our goals rather than bring us closer.


It’s not about never stumbling but about how we rise when we do. You see, every stumble is just life presenting us with a choice. We can either stay down, staring gloomily at our shoelaces, or we can find the strength to stand, rebuild, and learn from the experience.



Reframe Your Relapse From a Positive Perspective

We’ve all heard the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” right? It’s a cliché for a reason. Instead of berating yourself, celebrate the resilience that brought you to this point. You’re no longer swept away by the current of habit; you’re consciously observing your relationship with alcohol and refining it.


Recognize your learning moments and reality checks as part and parcel of your human journey. It’s all right to stumble; it’s human. Embrace these experiences with open arms, for they carry important messages about your journey.


Relapses also provide us with new insights and help us refine our strategies. They remind us to be kind to ourselves, that it’s okay to slip, fall, and rise again. Every time we topple and get back up, we learn something new, come back stronger, and even celebrate the process of our evolution.


Brené Brown, a vulnerability and resilience researcher, says it best: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” So, it’s time to get a little vulnerable and find our courage as we navigate through these bumps in the road.


Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.

-Brené Brown


So I dare you—embrace your flaws. Turn every relapse into your advantage. Let the tears, laughter, sighs, and stumbles mingle together to form the beautiful, imperfect journey towards your goals. After all, it’s not the perfection in pursuit but the pursuit itself that adds color and significance to our success.



Four Pillars For Bouncing Back

Let’s get down to learning how to recover our momentum, shall we? Here are four actionable steps to bounce back quickly from learning moments or reality checks:


1. Identify Your Triggers: Think about that stumbling point, because understanding the factors that tempt you is essential for behavior change. Was it tiredness, a sudden craving, an emotional response, or perhaps an unexpected event? Identifying the triggers (without judgment!) that led to the relapse will allow for a better understanding of how to intercept or manage them when they pop up again.


2. Find Your Support Squad: Never underestimate the power of a supportive community or even a single understanding friend. Don’t be afraid to open up, share your struggles, and ask for support. As the esteemed writer Anne Lamott says, “It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.”


3. Set Realistic Goals: Breaking your big goals into smaller, achievable chunks can alleviate the pressure and set you up for success. ‘Never drink again‘ might seem overwhelming. How about ‘refrain from drinking this weekend‘? And be sure to celebrate the little victories along the way; small successes build confidence and momentum. Progress, not perfection, is the key.


4. Establish New Habits: Replace old habits with healthier alternatives. If your previous triggers occurred in a specific place or time, switch it up. Discover new hobbies, meditate, or even take up underwater basket-weaving if that’s your thing.

Taking ownership of my journey and consciously replacing old habits were real game-changers for me. I found replacements that catered to my newfound commitment and created a new ritual with my husband—preparing delicious mocktails we could enjoy together for a happier hour treat. I also started owning my choices and becoming an active player in my own life instead of letting life happen to me.



Course Correction: Rerouting Your Journey After a Reality Check

Let me share an incredibly personal experience with you. After seven months without alcohol, I was dealing with a lot of stress and frustration about not being where I wanted to be professionally, and I chose to deal with those feelings with a cocktail. As I expected, it quieted the negative thoughts I was giving attention to but did nothing to actually relieve the source of the stress. It also made me feel like a failure, my streak broken, as if I now had to start all over again.


This reality check presented me with a choice: wallow in self-doubt or take back control. I reached out to my support squad (my dear friends) and shared my fears, hopes, and uncertainties. Their encouragement empowered me to rejoin my path courageously, despite the bumps and bruises I had encountered along the way.


They also reminded me that a setback does not mean I have to start back at the beginning. This belief may be popular in some recovery circles, but it simply isn’t true. If you’re driving to your destination and take the wrong exit, are you suddenly back at square one? No. You might have veered from the planned route, but through conscious awareness, you can reroute and get back on track.


I find this analogy much more encouraging than believing that a relapse means I would need to start over from the beginning. Such a belief would make it so much easier to simply throw in the towel completely. It would also discredit all that I have learned and accomplished thus far, lessons that I can take with me as I resume my planned route. Instead, I accepted this as a reality check and realized that I would need to find additional, healthier means of dealing with feelings of stress and self-doubt so that I didn’t veer farther off track.



Celebrating the Journey: Embracing Opportunities for Personal Growth

Now that we’ve traveled this learning moment journey together, it’s important to remember that life isn’t about the destination—it’s about the journey. The beauty is in learning from these hiccups, standing back up, dusting off our pants, and continuing forward, stronger and wiser.


Remember, when you find yourself faced with a relapse, a reality check, or a learning moment, know that it’s possible to face these obstacles with determination, positivity, and strength. A relapse or reality check is simply an opportunity to stretch, explore, and refine ourselves. Embrace them. Love them. And above all, celebrate the incredible, uniquely imperfect, and inspiring person that you are.


You’re capable of continuing forward on your journey, armed with resilience and newfound experiences to guide you toward even greater accomplishments. So keep shining, keep growing, and embrace the incredible adventure that is life.

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I am a Certified Success Coach and I am passionate about helping women let go of limiting beliefs around alcohol and themselves so that they can create the lives they’ve always dreamed of.

Marci Rossi

Hi ! I'm Marci

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