One of the biggest fears that people face during addiction treatment is the fear of relapse. You’ve worked hard to get clean and sober, and you want that hard work to keep paying off. Furthermore, when you leave a rehab center or other treatment facility, you may feel particularly vulnerable to all of your old triggers. Transitioning back into your regular life is going to seem jarring, especially at first. If you’re worried about relapse, take a moment to look at some of our tips on how to protect yourself.
The Importance of Addiction Prevention
In another article, we pointed out that some experts are fighting for a different view of relapse. People who do experience relapse after drug and alcohol abuse treatment often see the event as a moral failure or as a failure in treatment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) takes a different view. NIDA compares drug abuse relapses to relapses in other chronic disorders such as hypertension. In all of these cases, NIDA says, relapse is not a sign of failure but a sign that the treatment should be adjusted. If you do experience relapse, talk to your doctor or therapist about adjusting your treatment plan.
That said, you should do everything in your power to avoid experiencing a relapse. While relapse is not a failure, it is very dangerous.
If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, you’ve probably developed a tolerance. This means that your brain and body got used to the substances. The first time you tried your drug of choice, you may have experienced a big impact with only a small amount of the drug. Eventually, you may have needed larger amounts of the drug to feel the same effect. If you’ve been through treatment, then your body has detoxed from the drugs, at least to some degree, so your body is no longer used to the substances. People who relapse after detox often overestimate the drug dosages that they can handle, and as a result, many people who relapse accidentally overdose.
This is why it’s important to have a plan in place before you find yourself in a vulnerable situation. Create a practical, simple plan that you can use in case you find yourself at risk for relapse. If it helps, write that list down and post it in a place where you can see it on a regular basis.
Relapse for substance abuse disorders happens at a rate of 40-60%. For comparison, hypertension has a relapse rate of 50-70%.
Keep Up with Your Addiction Recovery Treatment
Treatment for addiction isn’t the same as treatment for the flu. It is, once again, more like treatment for hypertension. It requires consistency, routine check-ins, and the occasional treatment adjustment. Far too many people see rehab as a one-time “cure” for addiction. In reality, rehab should be the first step to a long-term treatment plan.
You have several options when it comes to keeping up with your treatment. First, find out if your treatment facility has a “check-in” program for former residents. Some rehab facilities allow participants to return every once in a while for treatment “tune-ups.”
Second, consider seeing a therapist on a regular basis. A therapist can help you maintain your coping techniques while you deal with your addiction. Group therapy is also an option that many people use successfully.
Finally, if your doctor has prescribed medication to help you with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, continue taking your medicine as prescribed. Keep your doctor informed about any concerns you have or any progress you make.
Maintain Your Support Network
One of the most important parts of recovery is having a supportive group of family and friends. Spend time seeking support from loved ones and accepting offered help. If you didn’t have a strong support network before treatment, work on building one. If you attend group therapy, you’ve already taken a great first step.
Another option is to attend a support group for people in recovery. 12 Step groups provide one option, but they other support group formats exist as well. For example, SMART Recovery provides a secular alternative to the traditional 12 Step recovery group.
Do Healthy Activities
Maintaining your physical and emotional health can also help you avoid relapse. When you stop using drugs, you may struggle to find ways to fill your time. Focus on filling that time with healthy activities that make you feel better and keep your mind busy. A few of your options include:
● Cardio exercise
● Yoga or pilates
● Meditation or prayer
● Trying new hobbies
● Making art
● Doing sober activities with friends
Additionally, make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep and eating healthy foods.
Avoid Your Triggers
A trigger is anything that might lead you to relapse. Once you’ve started treatment, it’s important to avoid your triggers to protect yourself from relapse. This means staying away from the people whom you used to do drugs with and avoiding the places where you used to do drugs.
Certain physical and emotional discomforts can also become triggers. Alcoholics Anonymous advises participants to “HALT,” or avoid becoming too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Whether or not you join AA, this principle can be helpful to anybody in recovery. By avoiding these situations, you can reduce your chances of experiencing relapse.
Finally, take some time to talk with a therapist about your own specific triggers and how you can avoid them.