January 25, 2019

5 Ways to Prevent Relapse

Written by Alex Thompson

In recent years, research has shown addiction is a chronic illness. Like other chronic diseases such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes they must be treated. And whatever the illness may be, relapse can occur.

The dictionary defines relapse as someone suffering from a disease and going through deterioration after a period of improvement. For substance use disorders, these rates are between 40 and 60 percent, which can be compared to other chronic medical conditions.

While relapse is common, it doesn’t have to be your story and it it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard to prevent it. The one good thing about relapse means you’ve done some work on yourself, but maybe slipped back to old behaviors like hanging out with old using friends, or skipping out your recovery meetings. Maybe you’ve been glamorizing your substance use or have been under too much stress from work. Relapses can often cause major setbacks and can potentially be deadly, leading to overdose or physical harm. The occurrence is often a process, rather than a single event.

If you’ve relapsed, it’s important to remember that you aren’t a failure and get rid of the thinking that your time in treatment didn’t work. Relapse or signs of one simply mean that some adjustments need to made in your treatment plan or day to day life. If you or someone you love is in the midst of a relapse, there are a number of actions you can take to prevent relapse or get back to the sober life you were once flourishing in.

Identify and Manage Your Triggers

Recognizing your triggers and your setbacks can make a world of difference. Triggers are sights, sounds, words, emotions, smells or people that make you think about and ultimately use drugs or alcohol. Some general triggers can be being around people who are using, or being in a social setting where people are using alcohol and drugs. Other triggers can include feelings of sadness, loneliness, and even fear – especially if you once used substances to cope with those feelings.

Making a list of your pitfalls and triggers can help you identify where your relapse process could have started or how it began. Sessions with a trained therapist or counselor can also help you identify and cope with these triggers.

Enter Long-Term Treatment

Even if you physically relapsed, recovery and getting back to sobriety doesn’t happen overnight. Recovery is lifelong and the behaviors that have been ingrained in you for the number of years you’ve been using can take a lot longer to change than one month.

For a better outcome and to develop the tools to prevent relapse, a long-term treatment program is essential followed by ongoing support.

In fact, studies have shown that engagement in treatment can reduce the risk of relapse. For instance, a study with over a thousand substance use disorder patients found that recovery from drug use increased for every nine weeks an individual participated in treatment. Relapse rates also decreased for patients who continued with treatment with aftercare.

Remember Your Medication

There are roughly 50 percent of recovering individuals who suffer from a dual-diagnosis like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. It’s crucially important to remember to take whatever medication your psychiatrist has prescribed for you, even when you’re feeling great. At times, depression, anxiety disorders, and other types of mental health conditions can contribute to alcohol and drug use. There are also times that these medications work so well that the symptoms of depression and anxiety can disappear completely, and this may be misleading. The only way to keep symptoms of at bay is to continue to take your medication regularly.

Change Your Habits

Making a big lifestyle change like sobriety is a large undertaking – especially if you’re trying to do it alone. Make positive changes in your life by learning coping strategies for stress and other negative emotions. Change your habits and develop new activities like exercise or meditation. Maybe you need to make a large switch and move back into a sober-living or a halfway house. Switch up your daily routine to establish positive connections or attend a new meeting you’ve been meaning to go to. Sometimes, the little things can make a huge difference.

Rely On Your Supports

If you do participate in a 12-step program or recovery support group, be sure to reach out to members of those communities. It’s important to remember if your sober supports didn’t get sober alone, neither can you. Surround yourself with people who support your recovery from 12-step programs, alumni programs, treatment center, or aftercare program where you can be open and honest about your struggles and successes.

While the possibility of relapse is present, the chances are minimized if you take advantage of tools, support, and encouragement and apply them to your day to day life.

St. Christopher’s Addiction Wellness is a premier drug and alcohol treatment facilities in the state of Louisiana and provide clients with a full continuum of care. Our experienced and compassionate staff create an individualized plan that will meet your specific needs and can give you the best chance at experiencing lifelong recovery.

Contact us today for a free and confidential assessment.