In the United States alone, there is an estimated 20 million people dealing with recovery from addiction right now. This includes addiction to both drugs and alcohol. Around every corner, there is risk of relapse as addiction has so many facets.
Addicts will have to cope with triggers daily. Any one of these triggers can cause relapse. This is why relapse prevention is an important part of recovery. Medical experts and addiction specialists know this.
What is Addiction Relapse?
A relapse is what occurs when someone goes back to using drugs. This can happen for a number of reasons. More often than not, they start having cravings or other withdrawal symptoms. They aren’t prepared to handle them, and using seems to be the only way to get relief.
It’s important to know that relapses are very normal. In fact, they are often a part of the overall recovery process. Sometimes people will relapse multiple times before they’re ever able to stop using for good. For this reason, relapses should almost be expected. Still, that doesn’t mean that they’re not dangerous.
An addiction to drugs or alcohol is known as a chronic, relapsing brain disease. It can take a lot of practice to learn how to live your life without being dependent upon substances. Even so, you need to understand that it can be dangerous to experience a relapse.
The Dangers of Relapsing
Sometimes people think that relapsing back into their substance abuse patterns is fairly harmless. They assume that they’ll simply try to quit using again another time. What they don’t realize is that it’s typically not that simple.
Relapsing can be dangerous on a few different levels. The biggest threat that relapsing poses is the threat of an overdose. An overdose can happen to anyone who is a drug abuser or an addict. Regular users can inadvertently use too much at one time, and this does happen frequently. However, they are much more likely to occur for someone who is going through a relapse.
In this situation, the individual has most likely been abstaining from drug for a period of time. It doesn’t really matter how long. This is because almost as soon as you stop using, your tolerance levels begin to decrease. They become lower and lower as time goes on. For people who relapse, they’re usually unaware of this change. That means that they continue using the same amount they were using previously. They’re desperate to relieve their withdrawal symptoms, and they don’t really think much further than that. The result is that too much of the drug is consumed and an overdose results.
Another issue is the risk of continuing the cycle of addiction. Whether you realize it or not, when you relapse, you’re proving to your brain that you need substances. Your brain already believes this, subconsciously, and you’re reinforcing that belief. While a relapse is very common among addicts, every effort should be made to avoid it. It could only make it more difficult for you to quit using in the future.
A relapse trigger is something that occurs that can lead to a relapse. Of course, these can be very different for everyone, depending on who you are. However, there are some triggers that are much more typical than others.
Crazy Emotions and Feelings
Whether you’re a drug addict or an alcoholic, you have been used to a different type of “normal” for a while. Once substances are removed from the equation, the real normal just isn’t anymore. Your feelings and your emotions can go crazy. One minute you might be feeling excessively happy and excited. The next minute, you’re crying and feeling angry.
When you go into recovery, you are hit with brand new feelings. Some of these may be steeped in old memories that you purposely tried to forget. Managing these feelings takes some serious adjusting. At times, it’s much easier to go back to using than to even try.
Problems Coping with Normal, Daily Stress
Everyone encounters stress on a regular basis. Most of these are daily stressors that pose small problems, but then those problems are solved. For a recovering addict, this process isn’t quite so cut and dry. An issue that someone else might take in stride can quickly become catastrophic to someone in recovery.
Recovering addicts often find themselves surrounded by stress. They haven’t had to deal with it in so long, and they’re not as equipped as they were. It’s as though they’re not able to take a step back and look at stressful situations differently. For many addicts, returning to their addictions seems to be the answer to their problems.
The Belief that They Won’t Use Again
It’s good to be exited about your recovery. Actually, it’s wonderful, and it makes it so much easier on you mentally and physically. However, you should avoid falling into the trap of thinking you’ll never use again. This is because the fact is, you simply don’t know.
Sometimes addicts believe that they’ve found the key to never using again. It comes to them as a revelation, and they fail to recognize the power of their addictions. Instead, they begin to believe that they are more powerful. It is a very cocky way to think about recovery. More often than not, they will end up relapsing.
The best way to avoid this trigger is to reject that mindset. You can maintain your excitement, but you also must have respect for your addiction. It is quite powerful. It’s much better to take each day one day at a time.
Having a Short Fuse
Anger among recovering addicts can happen for many different reasons. Sometimes people become angry because they’re trying to cover up their fear. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their addictions. Other times they may just lash out at friends and family for no real reason at all.
Again, this is dealing with emotions, and emotions are very powerful. Addicts are being forced to look at parts of their lives they thought they’d never see again. It’s not easy to ask for help when you feel yourself spiraling out of control. More often than not, relapsing seems like a comforting option.
Not Remaining Committed to Recovery
There are a million different excuses that addicts might give for why they no longer need treatment. They may claim that they’re wasting their money because it’s not helping them. They may say that they have everything under their control. Or, they could try to assure concerned family members that they’ve learned everything.
An excuse is an excuse, no matter how it’s packaged. Quitting AA, NA, or counseling is a recipe for disaster. It’s also an almost sure sign that a relapse isn’t too far away. Success in addiction recovery comes from remaining in treatment long-term.
Spending Time With Old Friends Who Use
Friendships are important, and addicts will often find themselves missing their old friends. Even if they made commitments to never see them again, it’s so easy to give in to the temptation. Old friends who are addicts are not likely to understand your desire to remain in recovery. They’re likely to tell you that it won’t hurt for you to use with them one time. They’ll assure you that it’s “just for old time’s sake.” The moment you give in, you’ve relapsed.
It would be wonderful if no relationships were toxic. Unfortunately, that’s not a possibility. Cutting out those people who could do you harm is the only way to avoid this trigger.
Visiting Areas Where You Used to Use
Even though many addicts know they shouldn’t, they often have fond memories about using. Many of these memories are linked to locations that are important to them. Going to these locations can be a quick trigger.
If you’re an addict, you should try to avoid this. It certainly won’t be easy, and you may have to miss some important events. However, it will surely be worth it.
Warning Signs for a Relapse
There are several different warning signs you can look for to show you that relapse is imminent. If you’re no longer interested in going to treatment, that’s a major one. It could also be close if you have started thinking about using again on a regular basis.
Addicts will frequently “romanticize” drugs and alcohol in their minds. They’ll find themselves daydreaming about how good life was when they used to use. This is also a sign that you need to think about ways you can prevent relapsing.
If either of these begin happening in your life, you should consider them to be warning signs. It’s better for you to act quickly. That may be the only way that you can prevent yourself from relapsing.
However, if you do, please know that this is not a sign of failure. There are ways that you can learn from a relapse so that it won’t happen to you again.
Preventing Addiction Relapse
At any point after your recovery begins, a relapse is a possibility. There’s even research that shows that you’re more likely to go back to using 60 days after, rather than 6. Even so, that doesn’t mean that a relapse has to happen to you. It doesn’t, and it might not if you know what to do to prevent it from occurring.
Recovery tools are essentially relapse prevention. There have been many methods to help addicts abstain from further substance abuse. So how will you build a solid relapse prevention plan for yourself?
Plan Your Relapse Prevention with an Addiction Expert
The usual method of recovery includes detox and rehabilitation as a first step. This will give you an opportunity to receive support from experts. If you do attend addiction rehabilitation, part of the process will include a relapse prevention strategy.
If you’ve quit cold turkey on your own, you should at least see your doctor. They will be able to refer you to some support groups and services that can help you create an anti-relapse plan.
It’s one thing to desire great change in life, it’s quite another to make it happen. As part of the plan, you’ll want to foresee any potential triggers that could cause relapse. Everyone is different so this will need to be individualized to your needs.
Say Goodbye to the Things That Can Cause Relapse
If you really look at your past, it should be easy to determine what parts of your life promoted your addiction. There is definite risk of relapsing when you continue your life as it once was.
If you attended inpatient addiction treatment, part of the reason for that initial recovery success was being away from the temptation. Friends, bars you used to frequent, and other triggers that promote substance abuse will need to be avoided.
Fill Your Life With Positive Past Times to Replace Relapse Risk Behaviors
It’s not going to be easy to say goodbye to your old life. One of the best ways to fill the void is with new, positive behaviors.
There is a whole world of healthy alternatives that can replace old addictive behaviors. When you take up sports or other exercises, you start to feel better in many ways. You increase your positivity which will further solidify anti-relapse.
Whole Body and Mind Healing to Prevent Relapse
Healing is a major component of building a solid relapse prevention plan. Going through detox helps you initially get past the physical addiction but it all stems from a deeper place. If you don’t tend to the deeper reasons of your addiction, you are at risk of relapsing.
It’s not always easy to open up wounds and feel this past pain that you were perhaps trying to numb. It is a necessary step to really saying goodbye to the addiction that had control over you. Healing your emotional pain can be done in many ways.
The holistic approach should be part of your relapse prevention. Doing so with a lot of support around you may be important at first. The painful emotions that may come up as you begin to heal may be intense triggers. Here are some of the holistic ways to heal yourself.
- Becoming physically active will boost your endorphins.
- Finding emotional well-being will allow you to build trust within yourself again.
- Building a relationship with a higher power allows you to see beyond yourself. Faith can be very important in relapse prevention.
- Finding happiness within yourself and in your relationships.
- Learning about addiction and how it relates to you.
- Eating healthy can help nurture your body back to health. Food can give you energy and boost your mood.
Dedicate Yourself to a Support Groups
To prevent relapse, you will be advised to dedicate yourself to support groups and perhaps some individual therapy. Your addiction specialist will explain how important this is for your recovery.
You may not feel like you need further assistance when you leave inpatient treatment. You really don’t know what’s going to come up in you however. The support of a 12-step program really guides you through the unknown territory you may encounter.
Committing yourself to 90 in 90 with a 12-step program can be extremely beneficial to prevent relapse. If you really dedicate to going to 90 meetings in 90 days, you can have all your questions answered. You’ll be totally immersed in the education of your disease and you’ll have constant support.
Even if you don’t want to do 90 in 90, becoming a part of a group that understands what you’re going through will make you feel less alone.
Figure Out Who Can Help You if You Feel You Could Relapse
If you feel the pang of a craving or you’re feeling emotionally unstable, you will want to be able to call someone immediately. Find that person you know will be there if you do feel like you could relapse.
It could be your best friend, or your family, or maybe someone from your support group. Whoever you choose, discuss the relapse prevention plan. It’s important for you to know that someone is there for you in your darkest hour.
As you learn more and more about how you’ve supported your addiction in your past, you can drop those habits. This will allow you to fill your life with new and positive moments. The more you do that for yourself, the stronger you’ll be against relapse.
Create a prevention relapse plan that works for you. Trust in your recovery and know that you can overcome addiction. When you fully understand what addiction is, you can then combat the complex reasons you began in the first place.