Everyone has the best intentions of staying sober after rehab. Unfortunately, the latest research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that upwards of 60 percent of those struggling with addiction will return to drug or alcohol abuse within a year of addiction treatment.
For those who haven’t witnessed addiction in action, this statistic might sound startling. However, anyone who has firsthand experience with addiction will tell you otherwise. Recovery is not easy, and it’s certainly not the linear journey many think it to be.
Since the possibility of relapse is always present when you’re living in recovery, arming yourself with a combination of relapse prevention techniques will make long-term sobriety attainable.
Addiction Relapse Prevention Techniques
Technically speaking, a relapse is a return to substance use or abuse after a period of abstinence. However, this is a very basic definition for something that is extremely personal.
Everyone in recovery has a different idea of what a relapse looks like to them and for them. One person might view accidentally taking a sip of their friend’s alcoholic beverage as a relapse, while others would only consider it to be a relapse if they went on a week-long bender.
Although no definition is wrong, it’s essential to determine what your personal definition of a relapse is. This way, you can set boundaries for yourself to help you achieve goals and keep making progress while remaining sober and in control of your personal recovery story.
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Identify Your Relapse Triggers
Identifying your relapse triggers is essential to long-term recovery. Once you can recognize the situations and people that encourage you to drink or use drugs, you can make a plan to avoid these things in the future.
While detoxing your body is a critical first step in sobriety, it can’t be the last. Use your list of triggers to help you cleanse every aspect of your life.
- Your Friends: Cut ties with the old friends you used to abuse drugs an alcohol with. While they might be happy for you and your recovery, that doesn’t mean that their drug or alcohol use won’t trigger you to slip back into old habits.
- Your Home: Clear your house of all of the drug and alcohol paraphernalia that accumulated during your struggle with addiction. This includes empty pill bottles, beer cans, and anything else you think could enable you to use again. Let your home be a reflection of your new life in long-term recovery.
- Your Old Hangouts: While you might feel inspired to go back to your favorite bar or local park after rehab, it could bring up memories from your days of active addiction. If you feel like these memories are going to encourage you to use again, find a new place to hang out.
A successful long-term recovery requires people to recognize situations or people that make substance abuse look attractive and learn how to avoid them.
Learn To Deal With Both Positive And Negative Emotions
Substance abuse can alter brain pathways and impair your ability to regulate emotions. To prevent relapse, you must learn to deal with your feelings without using drugs or alcohol as an emotional crutch.
While it may feel easier to brush emotions to the side when you’re busy dealing with day-to-day life, a buildup of stress is one of the most common causes of relapse. Instead of ignoring your negative feelings, give yourself the time to experience and deal with these emotions daily. Feelings are not going to kill you, but a relapse might.
Sometimes, positive feelings can play just as much a role in relapse as negative ones. Weddings, holidays and parties often involve a lot of people drinking alcohol in excess, and this can be triggering. Since avoiding these high-risk situations isn’t always possible, it’s essential to plan ahead for how to deal with them.
Remember, you can have, and will have, just as much fun without drugs or alcohol.
Practice Patience And Balance
Your recovery is not going to be perfect, especially in the fragile first months of sobriety, and that’s okay. Striving for perfection is only going to cause you more stress and anxiety, which will likely lead to a relapse.
Instead of seeking perfection, try to pursue a healthy balance of work and fun in your new, sober life. Since stress is a common cause of relapse, incorporating healthy and enjoyable activities into your life will help reduce levels of stress and prevent you from turning back to drugs or alcohol.
Stress-relieving activities can include things like exercise, reading, yoga and other hobbies that encourage you to find joy in your sobriety. While you may not be perfect at these things yet, time and practice will only make you better.
Creating a balanced life after years of action addiction will require you to be patient with yourself.
When you find yourself experiencing the urge to drink or use again, try distracting yourself with an activity. This surprisingly simple relapse prevention technique is one of the most effective.
Cravings will come and go, but the time will pass more quickly if you’re engaged in a distracting activity. You may even find it beneficial to keep a short list of distracting tasks on you in case a craving pops up unexpectedly. Some healthy distraction activities include:
- Going for a run
- Practicing meditation
- Taking a shower
- Playing a musical instrument
- Walking around the block
- Calling a friend to catch up
The next time you feel a craving, take a moment to experience it and then remind yourself that it’s going to pass- just like they always do.
Build A Network Of Support
Life in recovery is not always going to be easy, but you don’t have to brave it alone. There are millions of people also living in recovery that have been where you are, and understand what you’re going through. Find these people in your community and start building healthy relationships with them. You’ll be able to use their advice and knowledge as a guiding light for your personal recovery.
When things get hard in your recovery, lean on your network of support. Instead of reaching for alcohol or drugs to cope with stress and anxiety, reach out to a sober friend. Not only will they act as your own personal cheering section, sober friends be honest with you if they feel you’re putting yourself at risk for relapse.
You’re going to have to deal with uncomfortable situations and feeling in sobriety as part of your recovery. With this in mind, creating a comprehensive relapse-prevention plan using a combination of practical relapse prevention techniques is vital to long-term success in addiction recovery.