7 Ways to Help Prevent a Relapse Into Addiction
[spacer height=”10px”] Addiction is an uphill battle, and no matter where you are on the path to remaining substance free, it is not one that ends. Getting clean might involve seeking professional and even medical help to ensure that you can go through withdrawal safely, but after the immediacy of your physical addiction has passed, you will have to cope with long-term mental addiction, cravings, and emotional upheavals that will make it difficult not to relapse. A relapse can start days, weeks, months, and sometimes years after you get clean, and knowing how to recognize it and planning to prevent it is crucial to maintaining your recovery. These 7 tips can help you to stay clean and prevent a relapse.
- Change Your Habits – Re-exposure is the process of being exposed to the situations, substances, people, or issues that caused you to turn to substance abuse in the first place which in turn causes a relapse. Re-exposure can result from something as simple as being near your old hang-out’s, or spending time with your old friends. In cases of extreme re-exposure, a person might go through cycles of addiction, rehabilitation, re-exposure through friends and family or environment, and then back to addiction. While you can get and remain clean without changing your habits, it is much more difficult. Instead, you should take the time to identify which parts of your environment contribute to addiction, and then change them. In some cases this might mean moving, changing your friends, cutting family out of your life, and picking up new hobbies and habits.
- Get Help – Whether you decide to attend AA or sobriety meetings, meet with a therapist for behavioral cognitive therapy, or simply discuss your mental health and options, you likely need help. Many addicts have a dual diagnosis, which means that in addition to addiction, they have issues with a mental disorder, childhood trauma, or other issues, which must be dealt with in order to prevent a relapse. If you sought out help during your initial rehabilitation, this may have been identified, but if not, it may be important to see a doctor.
- Manage Your Stress – Stress is one of the leading causes of substance abuse and therefore of relapse. Working to manage stress can help you to live a better life, manage your emotional distress, and prevent a relapse. Many of us eventually turn to alcohol and drugs as a means of dealing with stress, and this means that if you want to prevent a relapse, you have to learn to cope with stress. It’s important to remember that stress will remain a part of your life no matter what. How can you deal with stress? Meditation, mindfulness classes, exercises such as running or kickboxing, yoga, tai chi, or any of a number of other options. Any exercise will release endorphins in your brain which will help to combat stress. However, some practices like yoga and tai chi are specifically designed to get you to slow down and stop thinking about your problems.
- Work to Improve – No part of your life is truly under your control, but most of us don’t become addicts because we are happy with our lives. While there are exceptions, it is important to review your life, yourself, your actions, and your options and then make a plan to improve them wherever you can. Consciously working on a personal goal not only helps you to get into a place where you won’t need an outlet and will be less likely to relapse, it also gives you a distraction and a goal that you can use to focus your energy and your attention. But don’t start with something big. Immediately tackling a big goal will likely leave you even more stressed. Instead, start with something small. Volunteer for a month at a homeless shelter, take classes for cooking or something else you want to learn, or develop a plan to pay off debts starting with the smallest first. Tackling small items and taking care of them will give you an emotional boost and will help with the motivation you need to tackle bigger tasks.
- Find Someone to Talk To – If you can find someone to talk to who will understand, listen, and not judge, then you have an outlet each time you need it. In some cases this may be a friend, a family member, someone you met in rehabilitation, or even your sobriety group, but whatever the case, you need someone to talk to. Studies show that people who ask for help are more likely to stay clean over the long term, so you should ask for help when you need it.
- Develop a Plan to Prevent Relapse – Addiction is a disease and it doesn’t go away. You will experience cravings, stress, emotional upsets, and possibly even direct exposure to drugs or alcohol. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have a plan in place to cope with instances where you might be tempted to take a drink or buy drugs. Your plan should involve calling someone to talk, visiting your sobriety group, doing a meditation exercise, doing something that will take your mind off of your cravings, and imposing rules on yourself that you can easily follow. For example, you can impose a rule that if you have a craving, you have to wait 30 minutes before you do anything and that during that 30 minutes, you have to exercise by going for a run or a brisk walk (if you aren’t at work). This works because most cravings only last 20-30 minutes, and the endorphins released by exercise can help you to combat the desire for a more illicit substance.
Addiction is powerful and it can affect you long after you’ve gone through withdrawal. Taking the steps to get help, find coping mechanisms, and to prevent re-exposure or other triggers can help you to prevent a relapse, no matter your situation. Staying clean is never easy in the beginning, but it will get easier over time. Your goal is to remind yourself that staying clean is more important than anything that you will get from giving in to your cravings. And, with a good plan and hopefully a support group, you can make it work. The Oceanfront Recovery Addiction Treatment Program can help you or your loved one through the difficult and dangerous process of withdrawal and subsequent recovery from addiction. Our clinicians focus on bringing the underlying causes of addiction to the surface with a modern and effective recovery program in a closed setting. Contact Oceanfront Recovery today for a confidential assessment, and begin the journey of recovery today.