The path to sobriety shouldn’t end with outpatient treatment or a trip to rehab. Sober living means hard work and commitment. It’s important to make an effort to remain sober even after completing a treatment program with an addiction center. Here are five ways to avoid relapse.
1. Engage in Long Term Addiction Treatment
Addiction treatment is not a quick fix. It is a process. For long-term recovery, it is important to take the time that you need and be patient. One month of therapy or one short-term stint with medication often doesn’t do the trick. It’s important to continue to check in with yourself, your body, and a therapist to make sure that you’re staying on the right track.
Long term addiction treatment will offer you the tools you need to stay sober longer and give you a community who understands what you’re going through. Finding ongoing support is crucial. Studies also show that relapse rates decrease in patients who continued treatment following outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation. This could be something as simple as joining a support group, 12 Step Program, or finding a sponsor. Because these groups provide accountability, encouragement, feedback on the recovery process they are a great resource for those going through recovery.
Through therapy and aftercare programs, you will complete your healing and be able to adjust more adequately to a life where triggers are far more present. You will learn coping and conflict resolution skills – two key components in preventing relapse – and grow more confident in your sobriety.
2. Give Yourself a Fresh Start
One of the best ways to avoid relapse if you can afford it is giving yourself a new start. Obviously, one of the best steps is getting rid of everything and everyone who provides a trigger of some sort. The more obvious fresh start is a little spring cleaning (i.e. getting rid of all of your paraphernalia.) You could also move to a new location or get a new telephone number.
3. Identify and Manage Triggers
Triggers are things that make you crave, think about, or use drugs or alcohol. Stress. People or places connected to the substance or behavior. Negative feelings or emotions. Celebrations. Seeing or sensing the object of your addictions. Every addict’s trigger is different, but those are some of the most typical. Triggers can be general like these, which affect nearly all addicts in recovery, or very specific to the addict.
The first step is identifying and understanding your triggers, which can be done through therapy. Once you have an understanding of what makes you feel vulnerable, you can figure out healthy ways to conquer that feeling. A therapist can give you tips and tricks to help you cope with emotions or uncomfortable situations so that you don’t turn to drugs or alcohol. Be realistic – don’t underestimate your trigger and respect yourself. Don’t fall into the pattern of believing that you aren’t vulnerable during your recovery. Often times, addicts fall back into a major relapse simply by rationalizing that “just a little” won’t hurt.
Create a plan with your therapist to help you avoid these triggers more easily. Stick to it. Once you eliminate some of the things that make you crave your substance of choice, it’s far easier to avoid relapse.
4. Face The Negative Consequences
One way to avoid relapse is to remind yourself of the negative consequences of your addiction. Drug or alcohol abuse can be financially, emotionally, and mentally taxing. It can break apart families and ruin friendships. Addicts often lose their jobs, their homes, and break the trust of the people who were once their biggest supporters. By reminding yourself of all the issues that come along with your addiction, you can determine whether using again is worth the risk. This is especially pertinent if you received legal repercussions for your addiction.
5. Build a Healthy Lifestyle
Building a healthy lifestyle is a great way to avoid relapse. Exercise isn’t just great for your cardiovascular health, it also can be used to help avoid relapse. In fact, Frontiers in Psychology proved that exercise can protect against the desire to use drugs by “engaging the same neurochemical systems in the brain that respond to drug use, offering a focus that does not have to do with drugs, and boosting self-confidence, satisfaction, pleasure, and mood. Exercise is also proven to “enable goal-setting and achievement that parallel drug abstinence goals, and decreasing cravings for drugs or alcohol.”
There have been many developments in relapse management but they have all been based on the 1980 model developed by psychologists G. Alan Marlatt and Judith Gordon. Their primary mode of relapse prevention was managing and identifying triggers, but they also preached global strategies or the process of making big changes over a long period of time to encourage and promote a healthier lifestyle.
Create a daily schedule, set goals, sleep more, set your priorities and make time for them, find healthy hobbies to replace destructive behaviors. If you used drugs or alcohol to help you relax, there are plenty of meditation or relaxation techniques that are healthier and more productive.
Whatever you do, avoid complacency. Stay motivated. No matter how far out you are from inpatient, it’s always important to set new goals for yourself to achieve. Often, many people who relapse site lack of motivation as the reason for their momentary setback.
Don’t View Relapse as a Failure
Relapse is avoidable, but that doesn’t mean you should let it set you back completely. It isn’t a complete failure nor does it mean that you can’t keep trying to find sobriety. Recovery is not linear – everyone has momentary lapses in judgment. What matters is what you do to make up for all of your hard work.