How Can You Prevent Relapse?
This may be the question that has been on your mind since you first walked through the doors of the best medical detox facility near you. How will you make sure you don’t relapse? Maybe you’ve been five years clean and still ask yourself this question when you start to worry. Whatever the case may be, for men and women currently in recovery, their families and even the medical professionals who cared for them, preventing relapse is one of the main objectives of on-going recovery.
What is a Relapse?
When an individual in recovery returns to abusing substances, this is called a relapse. It is important to remember that addiction is a chronic illness. This means that there is no magic pill or potion that will ‘cure’ you of a substance abuse disorder. It is estimated that around 40% of people in recovery will relapse at some point. This is not a failure. Repeat that out loud. This is not a failure. Some experts actually consider this a normal part of the cycle.
No two relapses are the same. Some people may have a minor slip but quickly return to recovery. Others may go into a full blown recovery and require detox and treatment. This has nothing to do with weakness, nor does it have anything to do with a failure of willpower. Addiction is a psychological disease. The chemicals in your brain have been altered by the substances. It is important to remember this.
What Causes a Relapse?
There are several different things that cause a person to relapse. These may include:
- Triggers, such as seeing drug paraphernalia
- Associated with people you used to use with
- Visiting places you used to obtain drugs
- Anxiety, depression or mental illness
- Returning to the toxic situations that initially had you start using in the first place.
The first 90 days of sobriety are the most difficult, but there are ways that you can rise above the danger zone and fight for long lasting recovery.
What Strategies Work?
Now that we know what a relapse is, let us talk about some of the ways we can make positive and healthy choices to prevent relapsing. Some of this may seem obvious, but it is important when you are working toward the goal of a better life, to have even the simplest information available. Here are some things you can do to improve your chances of relapse.
1. Avoid triggers
We’ll start with the most obvious suggestion. When you are in early recovery, or even on-going recovery, avoid any of the triggers that you know may persuade you to use. This means that you may need to disconnect from people that you know who abuse drugs or binge drink. You may need to find new places to hang out. Some men and women in recovery choose to move to an entirely new city, to get away from their old lives. In fact, many of the guests at Royal Life Centers find themselves relocating permanently to our Prescott, Arizona or multiple Washington locations. Remove anything from your home or possession that you associate with drugs. These things are not a positive influence on your new life!
2. Healthy Habits
During active addiction, your physical health declines. Depending on your drug of choice, you’ve likely lost weight from malnutrition. You probably have not practiced self-care in far too long. Getting into a routine of healthy eating, exercise, meditation and self-care is a great way to improve your chances of relapse. Take this opportunity to teach yourself to cook, or to discover new dishes you’ve never tried before. Get yourself back to a healthy body weight and start to move those muscles. Yoga or other forms of meditation will help clear your mind as well as improve your body. Once you are feeling stronger, healthier and looking better you will realize how much better sober feels.
3. Continue with Therapy and Support Groups.
When you were in treatment, you met with many different forms of therapists and attended multiple support groups. This should not end when you return home. This is the support you are going to need to keep you strong during your recovery. Even if you have a loving and supportive family, many of them will not know what you have experienced. It’s not easy to understand addiction, or the pain it causes. This is exactly what support groups help with. The feeling of community and camaraderie that you can find in a typical 12 Step program, such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous will give you hope that you are not alone. Ongoing one-on-one therapy is a great way to process your emotions and prevent future relapses.
4. Consider Sober Living
Sober living is a great way to decrease your chances of relapse, especially during the first 90 days of sobriety. During sober living, you can take small steps toward being re-acclimated into society. This also helps build community and support as you will live with other members of the recovery family. Having easy access to the therapists and medical staff that helped get you through treatment is a great benefit that many find eases them through recovery. You can learn more about the sober living facilities at Royal Life Centers by clicking here.
What Does NOT Work?
To arm yourself with all of the knowledge you need to be prepared for a life in sobriety, you should also have an understanding of what not to do. Keep in mind everything you have worked and fought so hard to achieve! Use that as fuel to keep you fighting on a clean and sober life.
1. Cold Turkey Abstinence
There is no quicker way to relapse than trying to quit your drug of choice cold turkey. Withdrawal hurts. It is one of the most painful experiences you can go through, physically and mentally. The chemical changes in your brain require the substance you’ve been using to function normally. In some cases, cold turkey abstinence can be life-threatening, as substances such as alcohol or Valium run the risk of inducing grand mal seizures if not safely detoxed from.
2. Detoxing Without Ongoing Treatment
One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is thinking that all they need to do is get the drugs out of their system and they’ll be fine from there. Even the best medical detox program is not enough. Removing the drugs from your body does not remove the triggers, explore the root causes or help you deal with ongoing cravings. Addiction is a disease of the mind. This type of thinking will land you right back in detox, and is only slightly better than going cold turkey. If you are going to get help, commit yourself to a full continuum of care.
3. Trying to Handle it All Alone
Even if you have finished a full stay at a licensed drug and alcohol rehab center, it may not be enough for you to return home and resume life as it used to be. Ongoing therapy and support groups really do help, and are proven to reduce the risk of relapse. Also, shouldering the weight of your recovery is not easy or recommended. Be ready to ask for help. Keep a list of loved ones with you at all times, and remember to think of them when you are struggling. You are not alone, and your prevention is not all on you.
4. Becoming Complacent
Recovery is a discipline. If you think that you can still hang out with friends who are smoking marijuana or taking pills and just not participate, you are setting yourself up to fail. If you think that you can have “just one drink” when you went through three months of alcohol rehab, then you are going to end up back in treatment. You must be strong and fight temptation, not allow it to be in your face. Don’t associate with, spend time with or date people who are active users or drinkers, because that is no longer part of your plan. You need to be okay with that, and you need to stick to it.
Recognizing a Potential Relapse
Unfortunately, relapse happens. It is not a failure, but a stepping stone to on-going recovery. It’s important that you understand the warning signs of approaching relapse, to help deal with it ahead of time or to brace yourself for impact. In doing so, you mitigate the damage it can cause.
Warning Signs of Relapse
If you begin to notice any of the following behaviors, thoughts or emotions in yourself, you should seek some form of help immediately.
- Withdrawing from friends or family
- Decline in self-care
- Failure to cope with emotions
- Thinking fondly on memories of substance abuse
- Thinking of ways to use
- Reconnecting with old triggers and bad influences
Many of these behaviors are symptoms of relapse before you even pick up a bottle or take a hit. They’re red flags to warn you that you need support.
What Should You Do If You Relapse?
If you find yourself in this situation, you are going to need some help. Remember, addiction is not meant to be tackled alone. Here is what we suggest you do, to prevent yourself from heading toward relapse or if you have started using again:
- Contact a mentor, support person or addiction counselor immediately.
- Reach out to trusted loved ones and family as soon as possible.
- Attend group meetings or therapy if you have discontinued.
- Focus on your health, nutrition and hygiene to make sure it does not decline.
- Distance yourself from triggers.
- Consider revisiting treatment if you have started using again.
Relapse is scary, and it is not something that you should face alone. It may make you feel weak, or afraid but this is when you need to be stronger than ever! The good news, is that a relapse CAN be prevented. If you think that there is a possibility of returning to your old habits, we urge you to find the best help available near you. This can save you from a potentially devastating return to substance abuse.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or mental health disorder, please reach out to us about your detox and treatment options. Royal Life Centers admissions staff is available 24/7 to answer your questions and address your concerns. We can be reached at (877)-RECOVERY or 877-732-6837. Because We Care.