Finishing a rehabilitation program is the first big step on a lifelong journey of healing and health. Take a moment to be proud of what you have accomplished. If you or a loved one has recently completed a drug rehab program you may be concerned about relapse. Preventing relapse requires careful planning, dedication, and commitment to a new, clean lifestyle.
Keep reading for 7 tips you or your loved one can use to prevent drug relapse and pave the road to recovery.
Causes of Relapse
Drug addiction is a long-term condition that affects a person’s brain. Managing drug addiction is similar to managing other chronic mental and physical conditions.
Rehabilitation treatment helps many people start their journey to recovery, but it doesn’t mean that they are “cured” of their addiction.
Relapse can be caused by a number of things and everyone’s experience is different. There may be a traumatic event in someone’s life that causes them to relapse. It could also be exposure to triggers that cause a person to use drugs again.
Relapse can happen to people with the best of intentions. And while it may be hard for their loved ones to understand, a relapse does not mean that the person has failed on their recovery journey. It is a setback but it’s not a reason to give up.
Types of Relapse
Relapse can be emotional, mental, or physical. Emotional relapse refers to overwhelming feelings that work against your recovery.
During a phase of emotional relapse, a person may experience anger, depression, defensiveness, and a lack of motivation or drive to continue taking steps toward recovery.
Mental relapse is easier to identify because it involves thinking about drugs and drug use. Emotional relapse involves generally uncomfortable feelings but mental relapse is focused on thoughts about drug use.
During a mental relapse, a person may think about how to get drugs or imagine themselves taking drugs.
And finally, there is physical relapse. Physical relapse covers a wide variety of behaviors from one sip of alcohol to cocaine or heroin use.
Every person experiences relapse differently. And an emotional or mental relapse does not always lead to physical relapse. If a person is able to address their emotional or mental relapse symptoms they may be able to prevent the physical relapse which is often most detrimental to their success.
Now that you have a better understanding of why and how relapse happens, keep reading for a few tips on how to prevent it.
1. Avoid Temptation
The rehab environment is designed to help a person recover from drug addiction. But once that person leaves the rehab environment there may be triggers and cues that make it hard to remain sober.
To prevent relapse it’s important to avoid people, places, and things that might encourage you to use drugs. It may mean avoiding friends that do drugs or places you bought or used drugs.
You may eventually be able to interact with these people and places, but it’s best not to test your recovery right away. For the first few months after rehab, try to keep yourself away from situations that might test you.
2. Keep a Busy Schedule
Idle hands are the enemy of sobriety. Keep yourself busy to avoid thinking about drugs. Distractions will keep you from having to fight off cravings.
Give your day structure and try to fill it with activities you enjoy. Try a new hobby, visit with friends and family that support your recovery, or learn a new skill.
Learning how to spend free time will limit the opportunity for relapse.
3. Make New Habits
It is vital for an addict or alcoholic to make new day-to-day habits. Addicts must essentially commence a new life in order to avoid triggers.
You can no longer go to the same hang-out spots, or engage in the same behavior that enabled the addiction. It’s also best to avoid the same people that may have enabled your addiction.
These things are dangerously alluring and will act as a trigger for repeated alcoholism or drug abuse.
4. Join a Support Group
Going through recovery is difficult and you shouldn’t try to do it alone. Find a support group in your area that you depend on.
Organized groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are designed to connect communities of people that are on their journey of recovery toward long-term health.
5. Diet and Exercise
Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine is important for everyone, but it can be especially useful in preventing relapse.
Proper nutrition improves your brain’s ability to make good decisions. Eating well throughout the day can help you sustain better willpower even when you encounter a difficult situation.
Exercise produces natural chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy. It helps to reduce anxiety and boost mood and confidence reducing the likelihood of relapse. Exercise can also be a good coping mechanism when life gets stressful.
6. Practice Self-Awareness
Everyone has good days and bad days. However, mentally healthy people have an easier time dealing with bad days.
For an addict in recovery, it’s important to learn self-awareness. Identifying early signs of emotional or mental relapse allows you to ask for help before a physical relapse occurs.
Taking time to identify and process your emotions can prevent relapse. It takes time and practice, but it’s a lifelong skill for recovery.
7. Ask For Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Having supportive friends and family during recovery will help prevent relapse.
Keep a list of emergency contacts that you can call when you are having trouble or encounter a trigger. Those people are there to help you.
If you are a family member or friend of a recovering addict, offer to be on the emergency contact list. Be a good listener and offer to help in whatever ways you can.
While you are sleeping your brain and your body have a chance to relax and recharge. During recovery, self-care, specifically sleeping should be a priority.
Without enough sleep, it may be difficult to make good decisions and process your emotions in a healthy way.
Adults should get 7 or more hours of sleep per night.
Preventing Relapse Is Possible
Preventing relapse may seem like a daunting task, but it can be done. Using the strategies above will help you or your loved one get back to a happy, healthy, drug-free life.
Remember that addiction is a long-term illness and there will be challenges along the way. But by committing to sobriety and self-care you can thrive.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact us today to learn more about our drug treatment program.