A British theologian once wrote: “every moment of resistance to temptation is a victory.” This holds true for many things, but it is especially true during drug relapse prevention.
Why Is Relapse So Common?
When you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, your coping skills are compromised. The initial treatment is towards curtailing substance abuse. Afterward is a focus on your behavior: what drove you to use drugs and why did you feel that way? These triggers can be people, places, or certain emotions. Until you have a better idea of these answers, resisting temptation can be difficult.
Preventing Relapse Is Easier When You’re Expressive
When you feel really stressed, think about what you used to do before addiction treatment. Drug addicts typically turned to drugs or alcohol to feel better rather than communicate, their coping skills are aligned with running away from problems.
Instead, consider expressing your thoughts and concerns to a loved one. The prospect of opening up about how you feel probably seemed terrifying. Maybe it still is. That is the fatal flaw of being addicted to a drug or alcohol. You lose your ability to express your feelings. You become used to the behavior of avoidance. Drug relapse will happen if you maintain that sort of silence. You need to be mindful of your needs and express them. When your feelings become bottled up, this will lead to relapse. Fear of what your loved ones will think will lead to relapse. Fear of feeling uncomfortable talking about feelings will lead to relapse.
You never want to be in a position where you isolate yourself and cause people to leave you behind. Lots of times, families and friends of addicts emotionally cut them off because they can’t handle the pain of knowing their support isn’t being used. It makes them angry to try so hard to help someone when they do not seem to want the help. It makes them scared that you’ll be hurt or become sick. When you express your feelings, you become closer to your loved ones. You avoid scaring them or filling them with worry. You become happier with yourself because you learn more about who you are. You gain insight into life. You gain insight into what makes you authentic.
Addiction relapse is so easy to avoid if you just take the time to talk about these feelings. What’s bothering you? Think about your recovery program. You recovered through the acceptance of your issues and then you talked about them. Being expressive has the power to cure a drug or alcohol addiction. This has to mean that being expressive can prevent drug relapse when you’re out of addiction recovery too. That is up to you though. It is up to you to make the conscious decision to open up to people and practice the new habits you learned in behavioral therapy.
Think About What You Learned In Your Treatment Center
A lot of times, recovering addicts forget that the tools they used in their treatment center can still be used when they’re out of it. They forget that they were given everything they needed to be able to maintain a sober lifestyle. That said, preventing relapse can be really hard. Try to really focus on the lessons you learned during addiction treatment and apply them to your life. Sober living for the first few months is a challenge, but it’s certainly not a challenge that can’t be overcome.
Take note of how your addiction counselor taught you to sort out your feelings. Answer these questions. What is bothering me? Is there anyone I have hurt? Do I owe them an apology? When I was in my recovery center, what coping skills did I learn? You probably know that there are so many things you can do before turning to substance abuse.
You can go for a jog, or go hang out with a trusted friend. If you’re religious, you can pray. If you’re spiritual and active, you can do yoga or meditate. You were taught this. You went through an addiction treatment program that gave you all the knowledge you need during sober living. Don’t forget this. Utilize it and live by it.
Don’t Reject Thoughts About Alcohol And Drugs
Have you ever seen a movie where a hero cuts off the head of a dragon and it grows back two heads? That is what will happen if you reject your thoughts about alcohol and drugs. The temptation will only grow stronger. It will make you lose hope and want to use. Simply let your mind accept that it is thinking about substance abuse. Let your thoughts be. You know the warning signs of relapse, so you know that it can be scary to start to think in-depth about alcohol and drugs.
While it is easy to let this lead to substance abuse, try this. Let your brain think about alcohol and drugs. You just went to a place where you confronted all the issues that your drug or alcohol of choice caused you. You know your common triggers. You also know what substance abuse has done to ruin parts of your life. If you took the second to think in more depth, your thoughts will lead down a slippery slope. You will first start to think of drugs and alcohol. Then, you’ll begin to think about how good it used to feel to use those and avoid other coping skills. This is where you could relapse.
Instead, embrace these thoughts, as difficult as they may be. Restrictive thoughts only make you want something more and increase the likelihood of relapsing. If your thoughts turn dangerously close to being convincing, remind yourself of how it hurt your loved ones to see you go through so much pain. Remind yourself of how good it feels to let go of your addiction. Minimizing relapse comes from accepting your thoughts and letting them flow through your mind. It is a dangerous thing to bottle up your urges because they will then become a reality.
Ask Other Substance Abusers About Their Relapse Prevention Plan
One of the most overlooked methods of relapse prevention is seeking support from people who have been in your situation. After leaving your treatment center, you’re going to want to prove yourself by being very independent. While this seems like the right thing to do, think again. It’s best to keep close contact with the people who you went on your journey with. They watched you grow while they themselves grew.
Your counselors are awesome and so are the cognitive-behavioral therapists, there’s something special about seeking advice from a fellow peer in recovery. They have their own ways of dealing with things that might be different than your ways. It’s also amazing for your mental health and well being when you ask others in the same shoes for their advice.
You can learn their ways of coping with the risk of relapse. You can share your own wisdom about suppressing urges. Don’t lose sight of the supportive group of people you encountered in addiction treatment. Don’t feel too much pride or be ashamed to tell them that relapse prevention is not easy. It can be assured that they’re in the same boat. You can learn so much from them. You will be able to compile a list of things that you can do to avoid further substance abuse. These methods have a higher likelihood of working because they’re coming from people who understand you and your addiction very intimately.
When you are feeling low, remember these things. Remember to express yourself. Remember to talk to a loved one. Remember to take away the lessons you learned in rehab as your own personal relapse prevention. Remember to let your thoughts be and ask people who understand you what they would do. Your drug addiction will not overpower you anymore if you do not let it. Predicting relapse will be easier for you because you will know more clearly what the warning signs are. You can then act on this feeling by taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. Remember that each time you overcome the desire to relapse and work through your issues it gets easier. By doing so you gain introspection and self-esteem. This is something to be very proud of as you build a stronger foundation for your recovery.
Final Words of Encouragement
You are stronger and more powerful than you think. Staying sober after addiction and recovery might seem impossible, but it is not. The main thing to remember when you run the risk of relapse is that you have to take a step back and think of what else you can do. Besides substance abuse, what other coping skills do you have? You certainly learned some in your treatment center. Here are some tips on how to manage your urges and minimize relapse once you’re out of inpatient rehab.
I found it interesting that you state that it’s important to accept urges for relapse while fighting them. My wife and I have been looking for ways that we can help our daughter go through her recovery from using drugs. I will keep this in mind and use this information while we discuss relapse prevention.