0 Days Clean from Self-Harm: Coping with Relapse

June 10, 2021 Kim Berkley

Self-harm relapse can happen to anyone, whether you've been self-harm-free for one day or 100 days. Being zero days clean from self-harm doesn't mark the end of your healing journey. If you keep calm and take things one step at a time, you can—and will—be able to move on from this detour and continue with your self-harm recovery.

Regaining Focus When You're 0 Days Clean from Self-Harm

Being zero days clean from self-harm can stir up a storm of strong emotions that you might find surprising, alarming, or overwhelming. While you might feel relieved initially to have finally "let go" and let yourself indulge in self-harm, this may be followed by a wave of other, less pleasant thoughts and feelings, such as:

  • Guilt over giving into your urges or failing to live up to your own, or others', expectations
  • Shame around your relapse; thinking that it makes you "weak" or a failure
  • Worry that you won't be able to get back on track
  • Anger or frustration at how difficult recovery can be, or at yourself for relapsing
  • Fear that your relapse will be discovered
  • Hopelessness; thinking that you are incapable of healing and moving on

To manage these thoughts and emotions, it's important to remember your reasons for pursuing recovery. Maybe you're looking forward to the day when you won't have to wear long sleeves in the summer to hide your injuries, or maybe you simply want to shift the balance of your life so that you have more good days than bad.

Whatever your specific reasons may be, hold onto them tightly. Speak them aloud or write them down if it helps you focus. They are going to be the compass that helps guide you back to the path of recovery.

Coping Techniques to Try When You're 0 Days Clean from Self-Harm

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for coping with relapse. The best thing you can do is to create a personalized plan ahead of time (ideally with the help of a therapist or other medical professional) that will help you get back on track if and when you find yourself zero days clean from self-harm. However, if you are experiencing relapse now and do not have a plan in place already, you still have options—it just might take a bit of trial and error to discover which will work best for you.

Some techniques that helped me cope with relapse in the past include:

  • Meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness exercises to reduce the intensity of your negative thoughts and emotions
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, exercises to replace negative thoughts with healthier, more balanced perceptions
  • Journaling exercises, particularly ones focused on gratitude and forgiveness
  • Spending time in nature, e.g., going to the park or beach, or gardening
  • Physical exercise, especially dancing, swimming, and walking

I have also learned in recent years that talking it out really does help. Talk therapy is an ideal option, but if you're not ready or not able to speak with a therapist at this time, you can try connecting with a free support group, online forum, or simply talking with a trusted friend or family member about what you're going through.

If nothing else, I encourage you to call a free hotline if you're experiencing acute overwhelm—sometimes an anonymous conversation can feel less daunting than the other options, and it is certainly better than trying to bottle it all up inside.

Finally, please remember that how you feel about a situation does not necessarily reflect the reality of it. Relapse can happen to anyone, whether you are one day into recovery or 100, and it does not make you "weak" or a "failure." It simply means that you are human. And, like any human, you have potential—to make mistakes, yes, but also to learn, to grow, and to heal.

Do you have any coping techniques that have worked for you in the past when you relapsed? Please feel free to share them in the comments—you never know who you might be able to help with your suggestions.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2021, June 10). 0 Days Clean from Self-Harm: Coping with Relapse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, July 27 from

Author: Kim Berkley

Find Kim on Instagram, Facebook and her blog.

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