Did you know that the best way to prevent relapse after addiction treatment is to be educated about what relapse is to the best of your abilities? The more you know about this “enemy,” the higher chance you have in the fight against it. That is why having a solid relapse-prevention plan is so important, but many people don’t know how to make one.
What Is (or Is Not) a Relapse?
A “relapse” refers to the worsening or resurgence of a medical condition that had previously improved. Regarding recovery from addiction, relapses are the resuming substance use after one has quit for some time.
Relapse may be your worst fear, but many people experience relapse. Everyone with a history of addiction is vulnerable to relapse, no matter how long they have achieved and maintained sobriety. Relapses are common because under the influence of drugs and alcohol, your brain gets wired to certain neurological pathways that reward pleasure from drug and alcohol stimulation.
Rewiring these brain structures takes much time and care. Even a long-sober brain can produce cravings for drugs and alcohol. Whether relapse happens or not depends on whether you give in to these cravings. In other words, simply having cravings isn’t a relapse, but acting on these cravings is.
Although relapses are common among people who are recovering, it is not a lost battle. Relapse should be avoided, and measures should be taken to prevent it, but relapse is not the end of recovery. It is simply a stumbling block from which you can learn and adjust your after-care plan to keep it from happening again.
What Is a Relapse-Prevention Plan?
Every recovering individual should have a personalized relapse prevention plan. Many treatment centers offer this as part of the exit process. Assuming that you might never relapse is an unhealthy over-confidence that can start you off with a disadvantage because of a lack of alertness. Despite your hard-earned sobriety, you are not returning to a stress-free life. In fact, the post-sobriety life of a formerly addicted person can be very challenging and stressful.
A relapse-prevention plan helps you identify possible triggers and how to combat these triggers. If you work with a therapist, they can coach you on some coping mechanisms while in recovery. For example, you will learn how to deal with negative emotions, such as depression, anxiety, and boredom through healthy coping mechanisms. Your plan will help you face difficult situations such as family conflicts, social events, and peer pressure.
The relapse-prevention plan focuses on identifying triggers as well as building up a strong support system. It is helpful to think carefully about who to avoid, such as drug-using friends and toxic relationship partners. These are the most common relapse triggers among those who have returned to using. Instead, think about family or friends who are supportive of your recovery and can help you remember to do the things you need to do to maintain your sobriety while keeping you accountable to your recovery plan.
What Are the Major Determinants of Relapse?
Before physical relapses happen, there are usually emotional or mental relapses before them. Based on this understanding, we can identify five major determinants of relapse. If any one of these is occurring in your emotional world or behavior, they are warning signs of an approaching physical relapse.
First, you develop an internal craving for drugs or alcohol. Second, you begin to think about and even reminiscence about people, places, and occasions related to your history of addiction. Third, your internal dialogue begins minimizing the consequences of past addiction, even glamorizing these past moments of pleasure. Fourth, you start bargaining with yourself, and more and more self-deception occurs. Lastly, your mind makes you believe you can have control over drugs and alcohol if you use them again. If left unchecked, this is the point where physical relapse occurs, and you give in to the cravings and use or drink again.
What Are the Principles of Relapse-Prevention?
Successful relapse prevention starts with a change of mindset. One should always expect the danger of relapse looming around, just like an enemy who is always ready to pounce at you. It is a humble and realistic attitude about your own vulnerability. It takes great honesty and self-awareness to have this mindset, which should be a guiding light to every part of your relapse prevention plan.
Have a toolkit of coping mechanisms ready. In this toolkit, you should know how to use conflict resolution strategies, better communication skills, self-affirming thought patterns, relaxation techniques, and accountability structures. These tools help you take action before relapses happen. More specifically, they may guide you to do the following:
- Call an accountability partner, such as the sponsor of your 12-step group
- See your therapist about re-emerging negative thought patterns
- Carry out your daily workout routine and relaxation activities
- Avoid or take proactive steps when having to attend high-risk social events
- Consider hiring a sober companion
Do you worry about relapse? Are you confident you have effective coping strategies that stabilize your progress in long-term recovery? A relapse-prevention plan can make all the difference. Every recovering individual should have a personalized relapse-prevention plan. Unfortunately, many people exit treatment centers thinking that they do not need one. Overconfidence and lack of preparedness may sabotage all the efforts you have put in. Experienced recovery specialists can help you work on a personalized relapse-prevention plan. It will do you immense good. Laguna Shores Recovery can provide the help you need. Here, our licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists know how to coach you in all areas of life through recovery. We are a full medical and residential facility that offers all clients a range of treatments, including therapy, alumni services, and relapse-prevention plan assistance. Call us today at (866) 906-3203. Full recovery is closer with a personalized relapse-prevention plan.