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Relapse Prevention: What to Do in the Face of Relapse

how to prevent relapse

A recent Huffington Post article quoted, “Relapse may be part of my story, but it doesn’t need to be part of my recovery.” This mantra is consistent with many 12-Step programs. The truth is, relapse happens—but it doesn’t always have to. Understanding the various underlying aspects of relapse, and committing to a renewed lifestyle after drug treatment, can supplement your relapse prevention plan.

It is an unfortunate truth that with drug or alcohol addiction often comes a high chance of relapse. But according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, so do many other chronic diseases, like asthma and diabetes. It has been said that drug addiction carries a 40 to 60 percent relapse rate. Similarly, though, Type I Diabetes has a 30 to 50 percent chance of returning in a previously diagnosed individual.

For many people in the initial stages of recovery, relapse can be frustrating, devastating. If you or someone you know has relapsed, you too, may be feeling great disappointment. An important thing to know about relapse, however, is that it is not an end-all. It does not mean that a person has failed, or that they should lose hope in treatment. Relapse does not mean that recovery is not possible. Rather, it indicates that addiction should be treated like any other chronic disease, with ongoing and active management, treatment, and prevention plans enacted.

Relapse prevention programs can and should begin with a drug treatment program. Addiction professionals understand the nature of addiction, of relapse, and are best suited to help clients maintain their treatment goals. Turnbridge approaches relapse prevention by helping clients first identify high-risk situations that can lead to relapse. These high-risk situations may include negative emotional states such as anger, depression, frustration, or boredom, as well as positive emotional states, such as celebratory feelings. High-risk situations may also include environmental factors that test a person’s self-control—social pressures, old drug-using friends, or even walking by a local bar can lead a person to slip.

The key to relapse prevention lies not in knowing how to recognize high-risk situations, but rather, how to appropriately respond to these relapse triggers and cope with them moving forward. This can include positive self-talk, walking away from a situation, or avoiding a situation completely. Coping mechanisms may also include replacing drug cravings with other healthy, pleasurable activities. 

An effective relapse prevention program will teach clients how to maintain a lifestyle balance—where there is stress; there should also be a healthy, drug-free outlet. Young adult drug rehab, for example, can help youth pursue once pleasurable activities to replace any drug-using ones. After treatment is completed, a person can then continue his or her recovery by maintaining balance, structure, and support in their everyday life.

To prevent relapse, you can:

  • Stay committed. Ongoing treatment and after-care are some of the best ways you can maintain your recovery. Stay committed to your treatment goals, continue attending 12-step meetings or weekly appointments with a therapist. Go to regular group meetings, and meet with other people who are also making this commitment to sobriety.
  • Stay healthy. By eating healthy, exercising regularly, and sleeping sufficiently, you can restore your state of health, re-strengthen immunity, and retrain your body to function without drugs or alcohol. Turnbridge’s program highlights the importance of healthy eating and exercise, with the aim that our clients bring home these habits and structure after graduation.
  • Maintain positivity, patience, and willpower. Temptation is everywhere, but it can be resisted.  By staying positive and patient, you can prevent relapse. Every day that you persist, every day that you say “no” to using drugs or put aside your cravings is one more step forward.
  • Keep moving forward. Do not dwell on the past. Do not think about the fun you used to have, the places you used to go to use or drink, the parties you used to throw. Do not think you have to prove yourself to your old friends upon leaving treatment. You can still be the fun, outgoing person you were before, but you can do it without the use of substances. Every moment from this point on should be well thought out, and a step in the right direction. Every choice you make should be a conscious effort to avoid drug use. Remember, you are now in control of your life. Each day is an opportunity for you to continue down a successful road of sobriety.
  • Find support. It is normal for a person to feel depressed, hopeless, or resentful in the beginning stages of recovery. But you never have to cope with those feelings alone. Use your resources and if you need it, ask for help. Call your sponsor or therapist. Find a sober living home, for example, or attend group therapy to establish a sober network. There are others fighting a very similar fight that can help make yours a bit easier.

Whether it is you or your loved one battling drug addiction, it is important to re-evaluate your conception of relapse and disassociate any negative connotations with it. When we believe relapse is a failure, we are diminishing hope for those who need addiction treatment most. Relapse, in actuality, is a chance to learn, to grow, and to take addiction by its horns. To learn more about relapse prevention, or how to recognize the early warning signs of relapse, call Turnbridge today at 877-581-1793. Together we can reduce the stigma of addiction and drug relapse, to get our loved ones back on track.