There’s not a tried and true method for preventing relapse: just a series of reminders that help you focus on wellness.
Too often, people don’t understand that the work someone puts into recovery only begins with specialized treatment. Afterward, each day requires you to use techniques learned in rehabilitation to stay focused on your value, purpose, and intent. For some people, this may prove to be more challenging, and the danger of relapse is possible.
On the bright side, relapse isn’t a sign of failure, and it’s important for both an individual struggling with addiction and the people who love and support him or her to understand that. However, relapse is most certainly an indicator that treatment needs modification.
Remember: addiction may not always be cured, but can be managed effectively. How you approach your sobriety and the tools you use to maintain it are essential to preventing relapse.
Identify Your Triggers
The first step to avoid relapse is to acknowledge and accept your triggers. At some point in recovery, you’ll probably get tired of hearing this word, but it’s a key component as to why people abuse drugs or alcohol.
Research defines triggers as the cues to exposure that remind the brain of the sensation of substance use. This is why without proper understanding and management of them, it’s easy to relapse. Triggers are often internal and external:
- Internal triggers may be physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions.
- External triggers often include places, situations, people, and things.
Remember, addiction is compulsive behavior. So, if you know for sure that being around other people at a party who like to drink is something that triggers you for a variety of reasons, you’ll use management techniques to:
- Contact the host and talk through your attendance. Maybe you only make a brief appearance and say hi, then quietly slip away.
- Go to the event with a support buddy. This way, someone is by your side to help you stay accountable.
If the triggers are more ingrained, and you recognize their power, maintaining control may be more complicated. For example, if you were abused as a child, and there wasn’t any justice for you, an addiction treatment plan may include aspects of cognitive therapy and support groups to help you healthfully acknowledge the trauma and work to resolve it. This keeps you from self-medicating with substances in order to deflect negative emotions and memories—you face them, accept them, and elevate your self-worth.
Identifying and avoiding triggers isn’t simply a matter of willpower. You learn resiliency over time with your coping mechanisms.
- Physical or mental illness
- Stress and anxiety
- Social isolation
- Peer pressure
As you develop solutions for some of these underlying conditions, you have a greater ability to manage triggers before they manifest into problems. Each individual has unique cues, making you responsible for heightening your awareness of their risks and affirming why sobriety matters to you. This process may take months or years to be effective, so remember, you’re managing your wellness for life. Recovery isn’t a short sprint.
Be Mindful of Self-Care
Much of what you learn during in-patient treatment allowed you to cater only to your well-being. The structure of the facility and easy access to nutrition and recreational activities are designed to help you focus on one thing: recovery.
Once you resume a routine outside of rehab, it’s much harder to eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and manage other aspects of self-care. Some people even think it’s selfish to dedicate time to take care of themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Approaching wellness with a plan and dedication is what helps you deal with the inevitable ebbs and flows of life. It’s imperative to your long-term recovery that you establish health and wellness routines that fortify your mind, body, and spirit.
Ask for Help
Primary problems with addiction include secrecy and stigmas, but people can’t become well in a vacuum. In order to dispel the myths that surround addiction, it’s important to open up about what you need and how you intend to stay well.
Again, this is an individualized choice. Some people recovering from addiction may be eager to share their stories with high school kids in order to warn them of the dangers and also demonstrate public accountability to sobriety. Other people shudder at the thought of exposing themselves in that manner, but eagerly look forward to weekly coffee dates with their 12-step sponsors.
If you’ve been triggered, recognize your feelings and regain control by:
- Call a therapist or sponsor and ask for direction
- Go to a support meeting and speak up in group about your struggle
- Visit a Willingway Continuing Care Community Group
- Get more resources by calling the 24/7 hotline provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Release self-deception. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It demonstrates your willingness to access all options available to you and stay focused on productive wellness.
Consider a Relapse Recovery Plan
At Willingway, we continue to provide techniques to help you design your best life after you’ve left the grounds. We have recovery specialists you can turn to for a relapse recovery plan, even if you’ve already completed your program here. We’ve invested time in your well-being and want you to be assured you can accomplish long-lasting sobriety, so contact us anytime for support.