There is no doubt that suffering a relapse can be a challenging and discouraging setback. It can leave you feeling hopeless and defeated. And to be honest, sometimes one can’t move past the experience and its fallout fast enough.

However, it’s vital to approach these setbacks with a sense of self-reflection and a growth mindset. Because the truth is every “failure moment” is a learning opportunity. Here are three questions to ask yourself after a relapse that will empower you to learn from the experience and move forward on your journey to recovery and improved emotional health.

1. What triggered my relapse?

Understanding the triggers that led to any relapse is key to a better understanding of your struggle and preventing future setbacks. Take a moment to reflect on the circumstances, situations, and most important emotions that played a role in your desire to act out.

  • Were there specific stressors or negative influences? 
  • Did certain environments or relationships contribute to your vulnerability? 
  • What negative emotions were you experiencing that day?

Asking yourself these questions can help you develop strategies to avoid or manage those triggers more effectively. More importantly, it may provide some direction as to what areas of your life may need more focus and attention such as past trauma.

Once you can recognize your triggers, you don’t want to stop there. You might consider setting healthier boundaries, reaching out for support from loved ones or a supportive community, incorporating stress-reducing activities such as exercise or mindfulness into your routine, or seeking the help of a professional counselor. 

Regardless, by addressing the underlying triggers, you enhance your ability to navigate future challenges and decrease the likelihood of another relapse.

2. What can I learn from this relapse?

Every setback presents an opportunity for growth and learning. By asking yourself what you can learn from the relapse, you shift your focus from self-blame to self-improvement. Reflect on the circumstances leading up to the relapse and examine any patterns or behaviors that may have contributed to it.

  • Perhaps you discovered that certain coping mechanisms or strategies were not as effective as you had hoped. 
  • Maybe you realized the importance of seeking support from professionals or support groups. 
  • Maybe you ignored some clear warning signs.

Whatever the case, recognizing these lessons empowers you to make necessary adjustments to your recovery plan. And so by learning from the relapse, you become better equipped to face future challenges and strengthen your resilience.

3. How can I strengthen my support network?

Building a strong support network is crucial in overcoming setbacks and maintaining progress. It’s also essential for improving your mental and emotional health. Relapses can feel isolating, so it’s easy to fall into a cycle of self-criticism or shame. I’ve been there.

However, reaching out to the right people can make a significant difference in your recovery.

Consider the individuals in your life who have been supportive and understanding during previous challenges. Evaluate whether your current support system is sufficient or if additional resources, such as therapists, workshops, accountability software, support groups, or supportive communities, could enhance your recovery. 

Surrounding yourself with a network of individuals who genuinely care about your well-being can provide encouragement, accountability, and valuable insights.

Additionally, exploring self-care practices that nourish your emotional and physical well-being can contribute to a more robust support system. Engage in activities that bring you joy, practice self-compassion, and prioritize your mental and physical health. 

By strengthening your support network, you create a safety net that helps you bounce back from relapses and navigate future hurdles with greater success.

Remember, setbacks are not indicators of failure but opportunities for growth. 

By embracing self-reflection and learning from relapses, you become better equipped to face future challenges with resilience and determination. Use these questions as guiding tools to help you bounce back stronger and continue your journey towards personal well-being, sexual health, and freedom.


Marlatt, G. A., & Donovan, D. M