You’ve probably heard of a relapse, but what does it mean exactly in terms of addiction recovery? The truth is that someone is not simply “cured” once they complete an addiction treatment program. Instead, completion of the program is only the beginning toward a long road of making healthy choices and changing their life for the better. This is not an easy process, especially for those who have been suffering from addiction for years. Addicts can relapse and go back to using drugs or alcohol, particularly when stressed or feeling discouraged.
Relapse is actually very common. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates drug and alcohol relapse rates to be between 40 and 60 percent. However, even those who have relapsed can still recover. If you or someone you care about is struggling with recovery from addiction, it’s important to make preventing future relapse a priority. Following these important tips will help:
Focus on Long-Term Recovery
Relapse is most common among those who complete initial detox and treatment without a long-term recovery plan. While a lot of emphasis is often placed on detox and the initial stages of addiction treatment, the real focus should be on aftercare. While aftercare may involve continued therapy and medical treatment for many people, it can really be summed up as the life that follows addiction.
This is the perfect time to make tangible life goals. These can be reconnecting with old friends and family, pursuing new interests, giving back to the community, etc. It’s all about making active decisions to do things other than substance use and taking steps each day to become the person you really want to be.
Make Overall Health a Priority
Relapse is less likely if an addict works to improve their overall health and fitness. Adopting a healthy, well-balanced diet has been shown to help regulate mood and reduce unhealthy cravings. Likewise, working out multiple times a week boosts endorphins, which elevates mood.
And while focusing on health, it’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with relapse warning signs your body can send in advance. These can vary from person to person, but if you start noticing mood swings, increased stress, or even symptoms similar to withdrawal, don’t be afraid to reach out to an addiction counselor for help.
Build a Strong Support Network
Throughout recovery, you need to know that you are not alone! Having healthy-minded people you can rely on is important in staying sober. Sadly, this also may mean having to cut ties with people who do not support a healthy lifestyle or even encourage drug abuse. Friends and family members who care about you and have your best interests at heart will encourage your mission to stay sober, and they will do what they can to help prevent you from relapsing.
Many people also find success in continuing therapy after their initial addiction treatment. Whether this therapy is one-on-one with a counselor or in a group setting, it is another way to help build a solid support system.
Your own support network will be strongest when it consists of both people who understand exactly what you’re going through (i.e. people you meet in therapy settings) and friends and family members who know your personality. Make sure everyone you are associating with knows of your desire to not engage in alcohol and drug abuse. And when it comes to those closest to you, don’t be afraid to let them know how you would like to be handled should you slip and relapse (or want to relapse).
Learn to Recognize and Avoid Triggers
Pinpointing what “triggers” you to want to use substances and learning to avoid them is also crucial to recovery. For most people, this is a mix of different things. Common external triggers are people, objects (such as drug paraphernalia), or situations that can prompt mental associations of drug abuse.
While many of these triggers often come from stressful situations, some people feel urges derived from positive situations as well (for example, wanting to ‘celebrate’ a work victory with drinking or drug use). In these cases, a change of setting / environment may be best. Going along with this, physical places can be considered external triggers as well, and they are best avoided.
Internal triggers are more challenging to manage because they come directly from your feelings associated with drug abuse. Aftercare is often so tough because it is learning to live without the drug and the happy feelings it gave you while “high”. The solution here is to, therefore, learn how to gain happiness and feelings of joy from healthier activities.
Let Us Help You!
Don’t give up even if you do relapse. For many people, picking themselves back up after relapse and getting back to sobriety is actually an important part of learning to stay substance-free in the long run. Whether you’ve already gone through addiction treatment and are struggling or you’ve recently recognized you have a problem, we’re here for you.
At Addiction Treatment Solutions, we pride ourselves on being a free drug abuse treatment placement service. We work with a variety of inpatient and outpatient programs, and we’re available 24 hours a day to help you.