How To Prevent Relapse
To help prevent relapse, it’s important that individuals practice self-care, formulate a plan in case they experience urges to use again, discuss their progress and addiction with close family or friends, and take medication if prescribed.
Treatment for chemical dependencies is a lifelong process. Addictions to drugs or alcohol change the structure of the brain so that even after the substances are removed from the body the desire to use them may still persist.
Chemical dependency, especially over a long period of time, can permanently modify the way the brain functions, altering neurotransmitters and the way that they operate. As such, the potential for relapse is always there, and a comprehensive relapse prevention plan needs to be put into place during treatment to help those who suffer from addiction maintain their sobriety.
The Stages of Relapse
Relapse is a process—not a one-time event. It often involves a battle between a patient’s desires to stay sober and the emotional or physical pull back to their drug of choice. With both alcohol relapse and drug relapse, the process can be slow or fast, but unless an intervention is made it is very difficult for individuals to resist the urge to return to their usage.
The stages of relapse are emotional, mental, and physical.
Emotional relapse includes behaviors that prime an individual for relapse. Things like trying to push thoughts of usage away instead of working through them, isolation from a social support system, and failure to practice self-care.
Mental relapse occurs after emotional relapse symptoms have set in. If an individual fails to address the signs of emotional relapse, they may start to obsess over and glamorize past substance usage and misperceive or sugarcoat the consequences that they have faced. During this stage they may also start to actively consider and plan their relapse.
Physical relapse is the last stage. It involves the individual putting themselves in situations they know may trigger relapse, reaching out to people from their past, or actively seeking out and consuming the substance they are addicted to.
Everyone undergoing recovery must recognize that building up relapse prevention skills is a fundamental part of their sober life. The question of how to prevent relapse starts with the establishment of coping mechanisms for the inevitable triggers, pressures, and stresses that those suffering from addiction will face during their recovery.
One of the most important prevention skills is learning to be open with others about urges throughout all stages of relapse. Talking about desires to relapse can help mitigate those desires, and also makes the individual accountable to another person aside from themselves. Other strategies include regular therapy, practiced distractions, and relaxation, as well as acknowledging recovery as a day-to-day process, not a black and white thing that you either succeed at or fail at with one decision or behavior. The less that individuals view their recovery as an either-or process where thoughts of relapse are as bad as relapse itself, the better they can work through their triggers and bring flexibility into their recovery.
Recovery at Retreat
Retreat’s drug and alcohol treatment centers in Palm Beach County and Lancaster County offer programs that help patients create a plan to prevent relapse and stay centered and grounded in their recovery. Retreat provides individualized care that assists every single patient with how to handle themselves when they feel vulnerable to relapse and helps them develop tools they can use outside of treatment settings.
A structured plan for relapse prevention is a crucial part of recovery. Reach out to learn more about our Lancaster County and Palm Beach County drug rehab centers and how you can begin your journey toward lifelong recovery.