According to the National Institutes of Health, drug and alcohol relapse prevention is crucial to lasting sobriety and durable recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Chemical addiction relapse prevention includes a comprehensive plan and subsequent commitment to following that plan.
There are numerous relapse warning signs, therefore a key part of any drug and alcohol relapse prevention plan is being honest with oneself about which thoughts, actions, activities, etc. are likely to trigger a relapse, and then follow the preventative plan to the letter.
An alcohol or drug relapse is when symptoms of the disease recur after a period of recovery. In this way, addiction functions much like any other chronic disease which are subject to periods of remission and relapse. As far as drug and alcohol addiction, anything other than a total abstaining from substances can be considered a relapse.
Counselors, sponsor in 12-step programs, and others can be very supportive and involved in assessing potential relapse “triggers” and the appropriate response to the for the recovering addicts they help. Successful recovery almost always requires the help of others.
Drug and alcohol relapse triggers are multitudinous. They include difficult-to-handle emotional events such as a divorce, the death of a loved one, financial reversals, among many others. Oftentimes, however, relapse triggers are more subtle and can include depression, anxiety, anger, irritability, mood swings, isolation, and even poor eating and sleeping habits.
Emotional and behavioral triggers also become more powerful when they are left unaddressed. For example, poor eating and sleeping habits might lead to exhaustion, which can then prompt the desire to escape reality, which can then lead to thoughts about using drugs or drinking alcohol, again.
While returning to substance use is the final act of relapse, there are other warning signs to watch out for.
A relapse may be on the way when the following signs are noticed:
Drug and alcohol relapse prevention is always extremely important to the healing process. Because numerous addicts relapse and never find their way back to sobriety, maintaining sobriety from the very beginning is essential.
Drug and alcohol relapse prevention plans often involve people connected to the addict, including family, sponsors, counselors, among others. A supportive family often makes all the difference between recovery and relapse. Ultimately, full recovery is the addict’s responsibility, but family members who seek their own counseling or who attend 12-step groups such as Alcoholics-Anonymous (for friends and family members of problem drinkers) can also learn the best way to help the addict.
When formulating a drug and alcohol relapse prevention plan, it is not enough to simply identify possible relapse “triggers.” The plan also needs to address support opportunities, such as counseling, 12-Step groups, outpatient programs, among others.
Usually, a relapse prevention plan will be a written document a person drafts with their treatment team and shares with their support group which offers a course of action for responding to triggers and cravings.
A substance abuse counselor can be a great resource when creating a relapse prevention plan. It is important these plans be written down to have a clearer outline of what steps to take in the event a relapse seems likely.
Be sure to consider the following in your prevention plan:
Recognizing the signs of a potential relapse is one thing; what is preferable is taking part in activities that are known to be successful in preventing relapse.
“Play the tape through” is a well-known mental exercise to utilize when tempted to use drugs alcohol, specifically when your memory attempts to minimize the consequences of using substances. Playing the tape through means recognizing the short- and long-term consequences of using drugs or alcohol again, allowing you to weigh the costs in a rational way.
HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired, symptoms that increase the risks of a relapse. When the temptation to use strikes you, check to see if all these areas of your life are currently being managed.
Grounding is often used to manage anxiety, which by itself can be a relapse trigger. It works simply by stopping what you are doing and identify things you can see, things you can touch, things you can hear, smell, and taste, a process that can distract you from your stressor and allow you to be in the moment.
Breathing exercises are another way to bring down your anxiety and calm yourself. It’s as simple as breathing deeply through your nose for four second, holding your breath for four seconds, and releasing air through your nose for four seconds. Repeat this as many times as needed to slow down your heart rate and allow yourself to think rationally.
The experienced addiction counselors at Miramar Recovery can put together a relapse prevention plan based on your unique needs and circumstances to give you the best chance of maintaining your sobriety over the long term.
If your or a loved one are struggling in the aftermath of a relapse or are at-risk for a relapse, call Miramar Recovery Centers today at (949) 694-3111.
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