Relapse is a common part of the recovery process for those dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. While a relapse should never be viewed as a failure, there are some steps you can take to lower your risk.
1. Manage stress
Stress affects everyone. For an addicted individual, however, stress is often the main cause of relapse. While no one can completely eliminate stress from their life, we can find ways to diminish its effect on our decision making and emotions. For instance, make a list of the people, places, or activities that are the most stressful, then work with a therapist or counselor to develop strategies to minimize those stressors. Avoiding these sources of stresses altogether may not always be possible but being proactive can help.
Practicing techniques to handle stress, such as mindfulness and prioritizing healthy behaviors, is essential in recovery. Acts of self-care, such as exercising, eating right, or getting enough sleep, are all helpful. A therapist can also advise you on techniques to manage stress when you’re unable to minimize its impact.
2. Avoid triggers
Often, addicted individuals have certain people or places that are associated with their addiction. To decrease the chance of a relapse, it is best to avoid these activities or individuals that may trigger a desire to drink or do drugs. This may mean changing your daily routines or cultivating a new group of sober friends, for example.
3. Handle emotions
Difficult emotions can often trigger the urge to drink or use drugs. To avoid relapse, it is important to find ways to properly process any negative emotions. An addiction specialist may offer techniques to cope with disruptive emotions. For example, many people find journaling about their feelings, meditating, or practicing mindfulness to be helpful. The goal of these practices is to recognize the emotion, determine why you’re feeling this way, and then use this emotional response as an opportunity for growth and greater understanding.
4. Find new behaviors
It’s common for a reminder of an addiction to trigger the desire to use again. Sometimes a certain smell or sight will transport someone back to their previous life. When this happens, the key is to focus on the sober life in the present. For example, some individuals find it helpful to recall the negative consequences of the addictive behavior. Another option is to try an alternative activity or behavior that is associated with positive outcomes. Feel the urge to drink? Try going for a run instead.
5. Celebrate differently
Momentous times in life often involve activities that may be triggering for individuals struggling with an addiction. Some find it helpful to have a friend present to support them during celebratory gatherings. Many individuals in recovery also find it helpful to create a plan with a therapist on how to manage such occasions.
Manage a relapse if it does occur
Any type of setback, including a relapse, can become a learning experience and an opportunity to learn new coping skills or refocus on past successes. If you should relapse, reach back out to your addiction treatment provider for resources on how best to return to your recovery plan and take constructive lessons from the experience.
If you need guidance on your path to recovery, contact one of the caring and trained professionals at Meta Addiction Treatment. We specialize in outpatient recovery for adults in the greater Boston area. We believe that with the right attitude and the right support, it is always possible to start a new chapter of your life.