How To Prevent Relapse
The best way to prevent a relapse is by having a plan. Once rehab is complete and it’s time to go home or stay in a sober living home, a recovering addict may be wondering how to prevent relapse. They need to prepare themselves to handle temptation in social situations.
Doctor Howard Samuels, a recovering addict himself, has several relapse prevention strategies.
1. Prevent Relapse by Using Your Willpower
Research shows that willpower can be limited only if we believe it is limited. It’s important to recognize that that temptation is everywhere, but if you resist one temptation, you’ll be better equipped to resist the next one.
As you let an urge pass without giving in, you are strengthening your neural capacity. The process gets easier with each passing of a temptation.
2. Be Proactive and Positive
We’ve heard this from our parents since we were children. Part of the reason that people turn to addiction is because they sometimes have difficulty dealing with problems. A positive attitude not only fosters sobriety, it helps to build a healthy mindset that will last a lifetime. If life’s challenges start to view internal negativity, it’s wise to call your sponsor or therapist. Having that person right at your fingertips can support your decision to stay positive. It’s basic human nature to seek the help of others in times of crisis and a breakdown of your attitude certainly qualifies as a crisis.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone—being proactive is one of the best relapse prevention strategies.
3. Live in the Moment
Confidence is a good thing, but in moments of weakness, people sometimes find ways to romanticize the past. As your confidence builds as you remain sober and work through your issues, don’t risk relapse by letting your guard down. Overconfidence often breeds willingness to engage in risky behavior. At some point you may want to “prove” to someone that you can handle a drink or two.
Live in the moment and be truthful with yourself. Recognize that addiction is a constant challenge and recovery requires daily vigilance. Remember that every moment you spend reliving your past or obsessing over your future diminishes your power in this moment. Most of all remember that at any moment during recovery, you’re moving forward for a better future, one that isn’t ruled by alcoholism or drug addiction.
4. Stay in Therapy
Once you’re sober, you’ll have a host of emotional issues to confront. You can no longer rely on the crutch of drugs and alcohol for support. Only with a clear head will you be able to identify and deal with struggling family or romantic relationships. Part of the recovery process includes developing new ways to resolve conflicts. Your attitude will play a crucial role in your success.
Dr. Samuels goes on to recommend that addicts continue with their weekly appointments with their therapist for at least a year or two after getting sober. Those in recovery should attend as many group meetings as they can. This relapse prevention strategy will help with healing and provide the tools to cope with conflict resolution.
5. Have Patience
Recovering addicts and their families will need a great deal of patience as they wait for the healing to set in. For patients, your emotions are volatile, insomnia will likely occur. Some may feel as if they will be miserable for the rest of their lives. Your loved ones will also be on constant vigil, thinking, “Is he late because he’s out drinking?” This is part of the process of restoring trust.
When researching how to prevent relapse, never assume that relapse will occur. All this does is consume valuable time and diverts your energy away from focusing on the positive. To occupy your mind, addicts should find ways to be active. Joining a gym, taking up with hiking groups, going on fishing trips or pursuing a new hobby are all good relapse prevention strategies. Be sure not to start consort with those who are still actively drinking or using. Remember that a clean start usually means making new friends. The good part about this is that these new friends will know little or nothing about your past and you’ll start with a clean slate.
The point of this particular relapse prevention strategy is that you should expose yourself to new things. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself. Your accomplishments by this time will have been nothing short of courageous, but things aren’t going to change overnight.
A healthy diet is an important part of recovery, but so too is the healing power of sleep. Sleep has health-restorative benefits. Developing good sleeping patterns will help keep you healthy for a lifetime.
Recovering addicts struggle with sleep and insomnia. Prolonged abuse of drugs and alcohol causes damage to your body’s natural sleep patterns. By altering your brain’s chemistry, these changes will take some time to reverse.
As you retrain your brain for REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, you have to be careful not to develop other unhealthy sleeping patterns. Sleeping during the day will isolate you from the rest of the world and is counter-productive.
Reestablishing healthy sleep patterns is an important component of early recovery, but you need to approach with thoughtful consideration. You do not want end up sleeping too much, as it’s important to maintain a balance.
7. Avoid Being Around Alcohol and Drugs
This seems obvious, but let’s be real: if you grew up in a small community, you probably have friends you’ve known for many years. Drinking, substance abuse and partying may still be a part of their lives but it can no longer be a part of your life.
You can still have fun and your life can be all you hoped it will be. The truth is that sometimes, you simply outgrow people from your old life. Eventually, you’ll gather the strength and resolve to occasionally revisit with old friends, but you must only do so in settings where temptation will not be present.
Your conscious choice to avoid these settings is another sign of your commitment to recovery. True friends will understand that a gathering at a bar is probably not going to be of interest to you.
Common sense applies here. Remember that you left your “old life” for a promise of something batter. Falling back into old habits is not the path to recovery…it’s the path to relapse.
8. Realize That Your Symptoms Are Normal
You may find that your emotions seem more fragile during early, largely because they’re not being numbed by your substance abuse. This might initially be a bit overwhelming for those who are unaccustomed to dealing with raw emotions and true feelings.
This may depress you or agitate you. It’s important to recognize that it’s normal to feel this way as you learn to filter out harmful thoughts. You’ll find yourself being more thoughtful in your responses and letting go of any hostility.
Once you realize that you are in control of your emotions, you’ll start to recognize that there’s no reason to allow someone else to be in control of them. If someone seems hellbent on agitating you, the new you will not allow that to happen.
Once you come to this realization, it will be a joyous day. No longer will you resort to suppression of your emotions by leaning on substance abuse, you will have turned an important corner on the path to recovery.
Your friends and loved ones will notice it too. You’ll hear things like ‘he’s a totally different person, now.’ That’s a compliment, by the way.
Your commitment to recovery and finding relapse prevention strategies to boot should be unshakeable. The alternative is too tragic to think about. We all know people who didn’t survive relapse just as we all know people who have recovered.
In moments of weakness, you have resources: your sponsor, support groups and you can always find a meeting online. Rely on these resources and use them. No one needs to be alone during this process, and each of the above will help you learn how to prevent relapse.
Remember that this is the new you, a person who now is better equipped to deal with life’s challenges in a healthy way. While the possibility of relapse always exists, the resources available to those struggling have never been more plentiful.