Relapse is the number one problem addicts face in the early years of recovery and it remains an ever-present threat for most recovering addicts. But there are ways to guard against it. By becoming familiar with triggers and warning signs, and having a practical plan of action in place, you can greatly minimize the chance of a relapse.
TRIGGERS & WARNING SIGNS
Relapse begins well in advance of the actual act of taking a drink or using a drug. And it’s usually a combination of factors that lead up to it, including:
- Spending time with old drug-using friends or hanging out in places you used to frequent as an addict.
- Isolating yourself by not attending meetings, quitting your treatment plan, or skipping doctor’s appointments.
- Obsessively thinking about using again or engaging in other addictive behaviors, such as gambling.
- Feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or useless.
- Experiencing conflict in close relationships, such as with your spouse.
- Setting unrealistic goals for yourself; then being too hard on yourself when you don’t meet those goals.
- Dwelling on past issues of resentment, hurt, or abandonment.
- Refusing to deal with personal issues.
- Experiencing a trauma, such as the loss of a loved one.
PLAN OF ACTION
While a relapse prevention plan should be personalized for you, it should contain the following elements:
People to call.
List at least three people who are sober and willing to help you should you need support. Connect with them ahead of time to make sure they are willing to take on the responsibility. Be sure to write down a home phone number, cell phone number, and the best way to reach them during certain times of the day.
A list of your triggers.
It’s critical that you come to understand what triggers your craving to use again. Whether it’s seeing an old drinking buddy, walking down the beer aisle at the grocery store, or driving in a certain neighborhood, write down what you think are the biggest threats to your sobriety. Then write down your response to each of these threats so you’re prepared when confronted by them.
A rewards program.
Inactivity or boredom can be a threat to sobriety, especially when you typically spent your leisure time using drugs or alcohol. So create a list of healthy activities that you like to do, from riding your bike to going out for ice cream. When you feel yourself getting restless, consult your list and do something you enjoy. Also, create a rewards program for meeting certain goals. For instance, treat yourself to a massage when you reach the one-month sobriety mark.
Reminders of why you’re sober.
In recovery, there will be moments when the urge to use becomes so strong you think you can’t fight it. At these moments you need to remind yourself of the consequences of a relapse. So write down a list of reasons why you need to stay sober, whether it’s to keep your kids or so you don’t lose your job.
Creating a circle of support, going to meetings and therapy, and getting involved in healthy activities can all help you maintain sobriety. But if you do relapse, don’t despair. It doesn’t mean your recovery is over. Instead, use it as a learning experience to modify your relapse prevention plan and determine how you can avoid relapsing again. Contact a treatment center like Bradford Health Services for help.