Addiction is a chronic, lifelong disease. Although you may be looking forward to the end of your addiction treatment program, and with the expectation of being “cured”, lasting sobriety requires ongoing effort. For newly recovering addicts, the risk of relapse is incredibly high. In fact, an estimated 40 to 60 percent of recovering addicts relapse within the first year of recovery. These rates are highest among people who receive only short-term addiction treatment and lack solid relapse prevention plans.
Relapse prevention mitigates the risks that people face when rejoining society after addiction treatment ends. Whether you complete inpatient rehab on a secure, closed campus or participate in a less restrictive outpatient program, returning to the rigors of daily life is guaranteed to bring temptation. In relapse prevention, you’ll learn effective coping skills for dealing with everyday stress. You’ll also learn the essentials of practicing good self-care. Relapse prevention reviews many of the lessons taught in initial addiction treatment. It additionally provides a strong support network and a solid plan for keeping your recovery on track.
What Is Relapse Prevention?
General relapse prevention is an ongoing, multi-pronged effort that recovering addicts make to avoid succumbing to temptations and triggers after treatment. However, formal relapse prevention services are structured programs that typically last between 10 and 12 weeks. These services take a cognitive-behavioral approach to helping clients identify environments, relationships, and situations that place them at risk of relapse. After patients have identified their triggers, they’re counseled in developing and using various skills and strategies for dealing with them. Relapse prevention programs are a continuation of substance abuse treatment.
What Is a Relapse Prevention Plan?
With a relapse prevention plan, there’s little risk of encountering recovery challenges that you can’t successfully overcome. These plans account for all the high-risk environments, relationships, attitudes, and circumstances that are identified in formal relapse prevention programs. They include a variety of strategies and tools for ensuring that people don’t immediately or gradually return to their old habits.
To start, you and your counselor might work on setting goals for establishing a healthy, stable, and largely stress-free lifestyle. This process can include:
- Seeking housing assistance or finding a stable living situation
- Finding career-building resources
- Identifying healthful, constructive, and engaging ways to fill your free time
Homelessness, joblessness, and financial stress are among some of the most common relapse triggers. Many people experience emotional and mental distress as the result of general unfulfillment and boredom. When you have a solid plan for your life and plenty of ways to fill your time, you’ll automatically have a lower risk of relapsing.
Prevention plans also have a strong focus on good general self-care. H.A.L.T. is a common acronym used in relapse prevention. With H.A.L.T., recovering addicts remember to never let themselves get too:
When crafting your relapse prevention plan, you’ll additionally work on building a solid support system. Post-treatment support is available in many forms. The more support types that you use, the easier it will be to stay the course. You can:
- Join a support group
- Attend regular sober meetings
- Spend time in a sober living facility
- Align yourself with a sober sponsor or accountability partner
When possible, even bringing family members on board is a good idea. Relapse doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it occurs in a progressive series of stages. People first experience emotional turmoil or stress. They then begin negotiating with themselves, fantasizing about using, and even making plans to use. Physical relapse is the final step in this process. It culminates as an actual usage event. With a solid support system, you’ll always have someone you can reach out to when you’re in danger of relapsing. Best of all, when you actually do relapse, these same support mediums can help you get back on track.
Relapse Prevention Strategies
Relapse prevention strategies can look different from person to person. For instance, if you’ve received treatment for a co-occurring disorder during drug or alcohol rehab, continuing to manage this secondary illness is an important preventative strategy. People who’ve left traumatic relationships will need to avoid returning to old traumas or exposing themselves to new ones. In general, however, there are seven important relapse prevention strategies that anyone in recovery can use.
Recognize Your Triggers
It’s important to know the different things that trigger you to use. These can include:
- Emotional stress
- Specific environments
- Certain smells
- Extreme fatigue
- Financial stress
- Feelings of low self-worth
There are both internal and external triggers that you have to be aware of. Once you know what yours are, you can practice avoidance when possible. You can also make a list of coping skills for dealing with specific triggers when encounters aren’t preventable.
Practice Diligent Self-Care
Good nutrition, regular exercise, and getting plenty of sleep are all things that contribute to mood balance. They’ll also make you more mentally and physically resilient. You’re less likely to confront challenging situations with anxiety and distress when you’re well-rested, properly nourished, and feeling good about yourself.
Deep Breathing and Mindfulness
Mindfulness and deep breathing can both go a long way towards helping you keep your recovery on track. Mindfulness exercises often go hand-in-hand with deep breathing. They encourage you to place your full focus on the present moment so that fear of the future and the challenges of your past aren’t adding to your stress. Mindfulness makes you more connected with the world around you, more appreciative, and better able to maintain mood balance. Deep breathing exercises will help you collect yourself, and achieve a calm, thoughtful state. You can use mindfulness techniques and deep breathing when encountering internal or external triggers.
Choosing the Right Social Circle and Support System
One of the best forms of relapse prevention is carefully choosing the company you keep. Not only should you avoid high-risk relationships, but you also want to surround yourself with people who support you in your journey. The right friends and family members won’t pressure you into joining activities that place your recovery at risk. They’ll recognize your recovery as being your top priority. They’ll also offer constant encouragement.
Engaging in Fulfilling Activities
Boredom is one of the most underestimated causes of relapse. Life in recovery should be both exciting and fulfilling. After all, you’ve worked hard to regain your freedom. If you aren’t engaging in activities that make you feel happy, accomplished, or of value, you’re bound to experience feelings of discontentment, malaise, and even depression. Volunteering in recovery is a great way to pay it forward. Studies show that volunteering in recovery can boost your self-esteem and make your life feel more meaningful.
Leading a Structured Life
You don’t have to lead a severely regimented life in recovery. However, you should have a fairly solid sleep schedule, eating routine, workout schedule, and schedule for participating in relapse prevention activities. Having structure will keep you from growing bored. It will additionally prevent your mind from wandering back to your pre-treatment habits and activities. Having a structured life also contributes to self-sufficiency, financial stability, and general sustainability. With structure, you won’t be in danger of taking on more than you can reasonably handle. You can also avoid letting important responsibilities fall by the wayside.
Have an Emergency Plan
For all your efforts to avoid temptation and triggers, problems with emotional and mental relapse can still arise. Recognizing a developing relapse early on will allow you to use mitigation strategies and support resources to avoid an actual usage event. Your emergency relapse prevention plan can include contacts like:
- Sober sponsors
- Addiction counselors
- Relapse prevention hotlines
- Sober meeting contacts
Although entering relapse can be embarrassing, you shouldn’t try to navigate it alone. At Recovery Bay Center, we understand the many challenges that recovering addicts face both during and after treatment. That’s why we offer an expansive range of support services and a dynamic relapse prevention program. Whether you’re just getting started on the path to recovery or you’re struggling to stay the course, we can help. Call us today to speak with one of our counselors.