September 27, 2012
If you are a recovering addict, completing drug and alcohol treatment is a major accomplishment that should be celebrated and should fill you with a tremendous amount of pride. When treatment is completed, you feel like a whole new person and it feels like the world is opening up for you. New opportunities and limitless possibilities are awaiting you as you transition back into your normal daily life and routines. While this new chapter in life may fill you will excitement, there are always those thoughts that lurk in the back of your mind, and those thoughts revolve around the one question that we fear asking ourselves:
What happens if I relapse?
Relapse: It is More Common Than You Think
When we leave drug treatment and resume our normal lives, our ultimate goal is to work our program of recovery and experience lifelong sobriety. While this goal does become reality for some addicts, the reality is that many will experience a relapse at some point in their recovery. For example, it is estimated that approximately 90% of alcoholics experience at least one relapse in the four years following treatment. Similarly, data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration breaks down the relapse rates for the following drugs:
- Heroin 78.2%
- Cocaine 61.9%
- Meth 52.2%
- Marijuana 43.1%
Even with the successful completion of drug treatment, relapse rates range between 40 to 60 percent. Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease, and the psychological effects of addiction linger long after the physical effects are eliminated. While it is a reality in the world of recovery, there are ways that you can adopt that can help you prevent a relapse.
Relapse isn’t a singular event that happens “out of the blue”; it occurs as a result of an ongoing process of events. Relapse can be seen as occurring in phases, and each phase has its own unique symptoms. These phases or stages can occur weeks and even months before an addict will start using substances. These stages are as follows:
In the emotional stage, addicts may not be thinking of using again, but they can experience overwhelming emotions that may set them up for a relapse. The common symptoms of emotional relapse can include anxiety, fear, fatigue, and anger among others. Additionally, a newly recovering person can also experience feelings of losing control, as well as poor judgment and insomnia.
In the mental relapse stage, the urge to use drugs and alcohol again is causing conflict with the deep desires to not throw away all the pain, sacrifice, and effort it took to get clean and sober in the first place. The common symptoms associated with mental relapse include the following:
- Beginning to hang out with old friends and acquaintances that still use drugs.
- Preoccupation with thinking about the people, places, and activities from the past that centered on substance use.
- Thinking of discrete ways to use substances without family and friends knowing or while they are at work or school.
After mental relapse, the next phase is the actual event in which an individual starts using drugs and alcohol. When physical relapse happens, recovery is over and an individual experiences extreme feelings of guilt and remorse which can result in depression. Additionally, those who relapse may feel like they are a lost cause and will never recover.
The following five tips are excellent ways that you can minimize and eliminate the possibility of relapse in your recovery.
6 Ways to Prevent a Relapse
#1 – Avoid Temptation
Early recovery is a time when addicts regain the physical and emotional vitality that was taken from them during their addiction. While it is a time filled with hope and limitless opportunities, these good feelings can also be a trap. One of the most common reasons that recovering addicts relapse is because they feel they can be around substances and not use. This type of thought early in recovery is dangerous–and if you are thinking that you feel invincible in this regard, the risk of relapse will be high.
If possible, you want to avoid any situations that may place you in the way of temptation. These situations can be either physical or emotional in nature. If you are in early recovery, you want to try to avoid going to those places where there will be substance use or where there will be reminders of times you used. it is also important to avoid the people that were tied to your substance use.
#2 – Get Support
In recovery, you need to surround yourself with people who are supportive of your recovery and don’t engage in substance abuse. These support circles can be family, friends and those who are part of 12-step or other sober support groups. These positive people in your life will be able to provide you with the encouragement and support you need. You also need to cut ties to those people who were your “using buddies” or those who are not supportive of your substance-free lifestyle. If necessary, change your phone number and delete them from your email list or social networking sites such as Facebook.
#3 – Be Able to Create A Healthy Schedule
During your time in drug treatment, you were taught essential life and coping skills that are important in maintaining your plan of recovery. The ability to create a healthy daily schedule is one of the most important of those skills. In recovery–and especially early recovery–your daily schedule should consist of treatment, meetings, your important daily obligations as well as leisure and free time. By creating a schedule in this manner, you are developing a new and healthier routine that is conducive to recovery. Ultimately, your goal is to minimize or eliminate idle time which can lead to boredom, and that boredom can lead to thoughts of using substances.
#4 – Keep On Top Of Your Feelings–Don’t Get Complacent
Another common stumbling block addicts encounter in recovery is the phenomenon of complacency. When someone is complacent they feel a great sense of self-satisfaction–even though there are dangers or trouble that may lay ahead. Many people who successfully complete drug treatment are highly motivated and will work a program of recovery, go to 12-step meetings and create a strong support system. However, the motivation and enthusiasm for recovery can wane over time–and they may buy too much into the success to the point where they feel they don’t have to be as vigilant in their program.
This doesn’t mean that you should attend three meetings a day for the rest of your life or stay in treatment; if you found something that works for you, stick with it. However, if you do feel complacency creeping into your recovery, you need to identify what isn’t working for you and modify your overall plan so you can stay on top of things.
#5 – Learn to Relax
Addiction is a cunning, baffling and powerful disease. You have heard this phrase a million times in treatment and around the tables of 12-Step meetings. It may sound cliche, but it very true. While you are in recovery, your old addictive ways of thinking will try and find any way possible to sneak into your mind and take over. When work, family or daily living, in general, causes stress, it is like the front door is busted wide open and your addiction can waltz right back in. An important part of avoiding relapse is to incorporate some form of relaxation techniques into your daily life. Whether it is yoga, mindful meditation, or another form of relaxation, making 10-15 of your day every day to some form of relaxation practice will help ground you and keep your mind in the here and now.
#6 – Don’t View Relapse As a Failure
If you do relapse, you will obviously have feelings of shame, guilt, and even anger. While those feelings are normal and you will feel disappointed, staying stuck in those feelings will keep you sick. The reality is that you have the tools to get back on the horse and you can ride again. Attend as many meetings as you can after a relapse. You also need to reach out to your support people and your sponsor. If you feel that your sponsor isn’t providing you with enough support, start a search to find a new one.
Are You Desiring Lifelong Recovery?
While the possibility of relapse is always present, those chances are greatly minimized if you receive the tools, encouragement, and support that you can receive from a quality drug treatment facility. Ocean Breeze Recovery Center is one of the pre-eminent drug treatment facilities in the state of Florida, and we provide all clients with a wide array of traditional and holistic-based treatment therapies. Our highly experienced and compassionate staff is able to create an individualized plan of recovery that meets your specific needs and gives you the best chance at experiencing the joys of lifelong recovery.
Call Ocean Breeze Recovery Center today and start your own journey towards recovery on the right track.