August 30, 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: The Dreaded R-Word
If you are new in recovery, thinking about relapse can put a damper on the gratitude you feel that you are clean and sober. While it is a thought that can generate a great deal of stress, relapse is a reality in recovery. For example, it is estimated that 90% percent of alcoholics are likely to experience at least one relapse over the 4-year period following treatment with similar percentages seen with other drugs. According to statistics provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), the relapse rate for those who successfully complete drug treatment are in the 40-60% range. This is the reason why drug rehab facilities place great emphasis on teaching those new in recovery the essential relapse prevention techniques that are needed to combat the urges and cravings that can lead to relapse behavior.
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.
Tips on Avoiding Relapse After Treatment
When it comes to avoiding the triggers and temptations that can lead to relapse, there is no secret formula or magic wand–it takes commitment and hard work. However, you can minimize the potential of a slip and avoid relapse if you keep in mind the following:
Avoid People, Places, and Things That Spark Temptation
A common reason why those in recovery relapse is because they feel the need to prove to themselves or others that they could be around substances and not use. This is an obvious red flag early in recovery. In order to avoid relapse, you need to try and avoid those places and people where there will be substance use or where there will be reminders of times you used.
Use Your Willpower if You Have To
In the world of recovery, we are told that using our willpower to avoid relapse behavior is limited and can eventually lead us down the slippery slope back to actively using substances. While this is true, temptations are everywhere and can lurk around every corner. When all other coping skills and options fail, you can use your willpower as a last line of defense until you can get to a safe place physically and mentally.
Build Up A Support Network
When you are early in the recovery process, you need to replace the people that you used to use drugs and alcohol with those who are 100% supportive of your sobriety. Whether it is family, supportive friends, peers in your 12-step group or all the above, it is important to have healthy people who will be able to support you in your times of need.
Trying to keep a positive attitude in the face of temptation isn’t easy, but there are things you can do to avoid a possible relapse. You need to be proactive and engage in behaviors in the here and now to stave off those negative thoughts. You need to call your sponsor or therapist and have your support people on speed-dial. When you know that support is right there at your fingertips can build your ability to stay positive.
Recovery is a lifelong process. In your journey, you will encounter many obstacles and situations which will significant test your resolve. Change doesn’t happen overnight, so take it easy on yourself. Focus on building your recovery by continuing 12-step work, volunteering or mentoring, acquiring new and healthier hobbies or join a gym.
Recovery is a Journey
If you are considering drug treatment for yourself or a loved one, you need to choose a rehab that can fully prepare you and give you the encouragement and confidence for your journey in recovery. At Ocean Breeze Recovery Center, our experienced staff will work with you in every step of your journey. From medical detox services and therapy to aftercare programs, we can create a treatment plan that will give you the best chance to experience long-term recovery.
Call us today and be well on your way to a new you.