RELAPSE PREVENTION & ADDICTION RECOVERY: TRIGGERS AND HOW TO AVOID THEM
An unfortunate risk that all people in drug and alcohol recovery face is relapse. While there is no relapse prevention formula that guarantees a life of sobriety, people who are able to find comfort in sober living are mindful of the rewards they find in recovery, learn to identify the emotions and situations that put them in danger of relapse, and find strategies for dealing with new challenges.
5 YEARS SOBER
1 YEAR SOBER
0-40% of relapse
Excellent chance for a drug-free life
MENTAL STATES ASSOCIATED WITH RELAPSE Sometimes the biggest challenges to personal well-being come from within. By learning to recognize negative thought patterns, people in recovery can develop ways of overcoming them.
NOSTALGIA CELEBRATION BOREDOM
OVERCONFIDENCE Believing that an addiction is broken or under control may be used as a reason to halt recovery strategies or even begin to experiment with drug use again.
COMPLACENCY Gradually, people in recovery may take their accomplishments for granted, thinking that because they have been abstinent for so long, they no longer have to worry about drug addiction or relapse. This may eventually lead to drug use as former users try to prove to themselves or others that they no longer
suffer from addiction.
NOSTALGIA Reminiscing about former highs or drunken adventures can quickly lead to renewed drug use in an attempt to relive the “glory days.” Users may also convince themselves that having gone through rehabilitation, they will be able to better control their actions this time around.
BOREDOM After leaving behind intense drug use, former users may not have hobbies they can readily take up, so they may not know how
to constructively use their free time, possibly leading back to drug use.
SELF-PITY After going through substance recovery and abstinence, people may begin to feel irritated that others do not have their problems. Maybe friends with similar patterns of use seem to be managing better or they see others use without running into the same consequences they themselves face. After a while, former users may feel like they deserve a drink or are entitled to a hit because they have worked so hard.
ANGER Some drug users fall into addiction because they used substances to cope with anger or stress. A dramatic emotional episode can trigger a former user to self-medicate with drugs again.
CELEBRATION If drugs were used as a reward, they may be tempting to use again after achieving a major accomplishment, especially if a former user hasn’t learned to appreciate other forms of rewards.
POSITIVE STEPS TOWARD RELAPSE PREVENTION AVOID TEMPTING SITUATIONS: Sometimes people in addiction recovery want to prove to themselves or others that they can be around a substance without using it, so they test themselves. For example, a person with a drinking addiction may go to a bar, order a drink, and actively resist drinking it. This is a dangerous and unfair test. A person will not always have the resolve to resist temptation, even if he or she can at other times. Especially in early drug and alcohol recovery, it is important that people avoid the situations, places, and even people they know will create a temptation to use.
DEVELOP A POSITIVE SUPPORT NETWORK: Drug addiction often starts out as a social experience, and people who use may fuel the negative behavior in others. Social influence is very powerful, and just as it can encourage negative behavior, it can also encourage positive behavior. In recovery, it is important to surround yourself with people who do not use and who you can trust to help you make healthy choices. These should be people you can go to when you feel the urge to use. Do not feel that your only options are to be
around old using friends or to remain isolated.
DEVELOP HEALTHY HABITS: Take care of yourself by learning or practicing healthy habits. Cooking at home and exercising outdoors are a very positive start. Also look into constructive hobbies that you enjoy, such as reading, taking classes at a community college, learning a craft (painting, knitting, creative writing, etc.), keeping a garden, and more. These habits will help you avoid boredom and more effectively manage stress. Being able to put your energy toward constructive projects helps to put problems into better perspective and can help you rebuild a positive selfimage. Help new habits stick by creating a daily schedule where you make sure you have time to fit in your activities. Rehabilitation programs help people create structure in their lives. Going on to make a personal schedule is a great way for people to maintain structure in their own lives so they can keep building on those skills.
CREATE HEALTHY REWARDS: Weâ€™re socially conditioned to indulge when we have accomplished something. This
can encourage us to do well more often, but it can also open the way for irresponsible substance use if those are used as awards. In order to break the cycle of celebrating with substance abuse, people should find other ways to reward themselves. This can include going out to a nice restaurant, making root beer floats, buying something to support a new hobby, etc.
POSITIVE STEPS TOWARD RELAPSE PREVENTION CONT.
REMAIN CONSISTENT IN TREATMENT (ANY TREATMENT): One of the most insidious reasons why people begin using again is simple complacency. After being in recovery for a period of time, people may be bored of their relapse prevention routines and stop doing the things that keep them healthy. They may stop attending group meetings, reconnect with old using buddies, or discontinue other strategies to help stay sober. With a complacent attitude, people think that they will stay sober, and there is no longer a need to maintain those habits. While it is not necessary to stick with the same course of action for the rest of your life, it is important to recognize that addiction does last that long, so it is important to stay motivated to take care of yourself.
REMEMBER WHY YOU QUIT: When people become nostalgic about past drug abuse, they are creating a highlight reel of the fun and adventurous times they had. However, drug use isnâ€™t just fun. It probably led to behaviors that hurt usersâ€™ relationships, resulted in financial trouble, put them in unsafe environments, corroded their self-respect, and had other grave consequences that made them ultimately seek recovery. Instead of glorifying past drug use and cherry-picking the more positive events, people in drug and alcohol recovery need to make sure to keep their whole history in mind when temptation threatens.
DON’T VIEW RELAPSE AS FAILURE The hard truth of drug addiction is that it stays with you for life. At times, people may run into tempting situations, emotional hardship, and other circumstances that will challenge their resolve. Sometimes resolve fails. However, relapsing or using again doesn’t mean recovery has ended or that all a person’s efforts to stay clean were for nothing. Recovery is a long road, and in addition to the rewards of healthy living, people may also experience some very low points as they repair their lives. Relapse is not inevitable – it can be avoided. However, if it does occur, the most damaging thing that can happen (even more damaging than the relapse itself) is giving up hope of recovery and no longer pursuing a drug-free life.
RELAPSE (LIKE RECOVERY) IS A PROCESS Individuals motivated to change their lives and free themselves of addiction behaviors do not simply relapse without warning. Relapse occurs because a person’s needs (mental, emotional, or physical) are not being met in the new lifestyle. Relapse occurs slowly, often after experiencing several triggers over a period of time. For successful relapse prevention, individuals need to be able to recognize when they are more susceptible to substance abuse, which is not always obvious. They also need to have a strategy in place to counter urges and prevent falling into the more vulnerable emotional states. Individuals can learn what their triggers are as well as how to manage them through addiction treatment programs. There is no cure for drug addiction – avoiding the pain of addiction requires constant work devoted to healthy living and placing constructive goals before temptation.
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Pyramid Healthcare offers a full continuum of care for adults and adolescents addicted to drugs and/or alcohol in rehabilitation facilities located throughout Pennsylvania. Addiction treatment programs include detoxification, residential inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, halfway housing, transitional housing, and methadone/Suboxone maintenance therapy. To learn more about talking to a loved one about addiction or how committing to a rehabilitation program can help someone overcome an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, contact a Pyramid Healthcare representative at http://pyramidhealthcarepa.com/ or call 1-888-694-9996.