Why Relapse Prevention Is Important
Recovering from an alcohol or drug addiction does not end when you complete your treatment. You have a solid foundation to build on, but recovery is a lifelong process. There will be challenges to overcome, and one of them is relapse. Addiction is a treatable chronic disease that can be managed successfully. Yet, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 40-60 percent of those in recovery will relapse at least once. Knowing relapse prevention tips and being aware of the signs leading to relapse is an important part of recovery.
1. Be Aware of the Three Stages of Relapse
The process of relapse can begin weeks or months before you actually use the drug or take a drink. It occurs in three stages, and during each one, you are at risk of relapsing.
- Emotional Relapse – During this stage, you are not specifically thinking about drinking or using, but you feel angry and anxious. You are not taking proper care of yourself and are not sleeping or eating well. You are bottling up your emotions and isolating yourself. These behaviors and thoughts are setting you up for a potential relapse.
- Mental Relapse – During this stage, you are fighting within yourself. Part of you does not want to use, and part of you does. You find yourself thinking about the places, people, and good times you had when you were using drugs or drinking alcohol. You want to experience again that easy relief from stress, pain, or boredom. You start planning when and how you will use again.
- Physical Relapse – This is the time when you actually begin drinking or using again. It starts with the first pill or drink–one slip or lapse–and then, most often, turns into regular use.
2. Know Your Triggers
Being aware of your relapse triggers is essential to avoiding a relapse. Triggers are things, places, people, situations, or feelings that make you want to drink or use drugs. Some people find it helpful to write down as much as they can about their substance use: who they were with when they used, what they were doing, where they were, and how they felt. This helps them identify their triggers.
3. Surround Yourself with Supportive, Positive People
Spend time with family and friends who support your recovery. Build a strong support network with people who give good advice, listen to you, encourage you when you are feeling weak, and help you through difficult times.
4. Join a 12-Step Support Group
Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provide a strong foundation. They help members to remain abstinent by providing support from others who understand the struggles of addiction and recovery.
5. Enjoy a Hobby
Whether you find a new hobby or reconnect with an old one, doing something you enjoy is a great way to stay busy and avoid boredom. Only after you become sober do you realize that a life of addiction is very time-consuming. Having too much free time can lead to temptation and relapse.
6. Take Good Care of Yourself
Make sure you get plenty of sleep and eat a balanced diet. Eating a healthy diet is essential to avoid nutritional deficiencies or imbalances that could lead to depression. Take time for yourself, relax, enjoy the outdoors, or soak in a bubble bath. Focusing on your own health and wellness is an important part of relapse prevention that is often overlooked.
Physical activity is a great stress reliever. Its effects on brain chemistry can reduce cravings. Exercise also releases endorphins in the brain that help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, boost your mood, and increase energy levels. By getting your body moving, you will feel better and reduce the chances of relapse.
8. Practice Mindfulness
By practicing mindfulness meditation, you create a strong state of alertness and focused relaxation. You consciously pay attention only to your sensations and thoughts at that moment without any judgment. Doing this allows your mind to focus on self with heightened clarity and awareness in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness meditation will help you think more clearly and rationally when it comes to cravings, making it an excellent relapse prevention tool.
9. Do Not Give Up
If you relapse, it is imperative that you do not give up. Get back on track right away. It does not matter how long you have been sober. What matters is that you stop using. Even if you have 400 days of sobriety and relapse, you have not failed. You are not starting over; you have gained valuable knowledge, confidence, and experience to move forward in your recovery. Returning to treatment will help you build on that knowledge and fine-tune the support you need to stay sober.
Help Is Available
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available. Call and speak to a professional at Canyon Vista Recovery in Mesa, Arizona. We will answer your questions and help you begin your journey to living a clean and sober life.