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Tips for Preventing Relapse

If you’re recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction, you can prepare to address the risk of relapse head-on with a relapse prevention plan.

What Is Relapse?

During a relapse, a person who has previously gone into recovery starts using drugs or alcohol again. This situation might be a small slip — like having a can of beer with friends at a sports event — or a full relapse where you intentionally seek out alcohol or drugs. It’s completely common for people to relapse when they’re not sure how to deal with intense emotions or stressful events. In fact, 40 to 60% of all people with addiction will have at least one relapse.

Symptoms of Relapse

Relapse isn’t a single event. Instead, it’s a process that starts long before you actually return to drugs or alcohol. Relapse symptoms can be broken down into these three stages:

  1. Emotional: You begin to feel intense emotions that set the stage for a relapse. These feelings might include anger, fear, anxiety, isolation, stress or disappointment.
  2. Mental: Part of you wants to start using again, while another part doesn’t. You begin to fantasize about drug or alcohol use, think about the people you drank or used drugs with, rationalize your addiction or even plan your relapse.
  3. Physical: This stage marks your physical relapse such as going out for a drink.

How to Prevent Relapse

Having a plan in place to acknowledge your thoughts during the emotional or mental relapse phase is essential to avoiding a physical relapse. A relapse prevention plan will give you concrete steps to take that will work best with your needs and thought patterns.

While everyone’s techniques are unique to them, the following tips are a good starting point for creating your relapse prevention plan.

1. Identify Your Addiction Triggers

Ask yourself what people, places, feelings or items make you most want to relapse. These elements might include:

  • Physical withdrawal symptoms
  • Old friends you used to drink with
  • A bar where you drank at or the location where you met with your dealer
  • Emotions like stress, anger or loneliness

Once you’ve written down the things most likely to trigger you, put an action plan in place for each item. For example, if you’re tempted to take drugs when you feel alone, call a friend to do a fun activity with. Or, if you’re likely to relapse due to overwhelming stress from work, you might practice meditation or schedule an appointment with a therapist.

2. Find Healthy Alternatives

Instead of using drugs or drinking when you feel overwhelmed, think about what you could do to manage your emotions and cravings instead. Write down a list of tools, resources and people that have helped you on your recovery journey. These items might include:

  • Exercising
  • Journaling or blogging
  • Talking to a therapist or sponsor
  • Hanging out with sober friends and family members
  • Attending support meetings
  • Partaking in a hobby

Make a step-by-step plan using these coping strategies to handle your triggers — the more specific you make your plan, the better.

3. Create a Plan in Case of Relapse

Relapsing is a common and completely understandable issue during Recovery. You should consider this possibility in your plan so that you’ll know what to do right away if you physically relapse. Decide who you’ll call and what you want them to do, then let them know about your plan in case you need their help in the future.

How Can 7 Summit Pathways Help?

If your emotions are becoming too intense to handle on your own — or if you’ve already begun to physically relapse — it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with shame or isolation. Instead, turn to the compassionate team at 7 Summit Pathways. We’re here to help you no matter where you are on your journey to Recovery, and we’ll use a focus on seven dimensions of your wellness. As soon as you’re ready, contact us or schedule an appointment to learn more about overcoming your addiction with us.