You may think that preventing alcohol or drug relapse comes down to saying “no” in the face of temptation. However, a person who struggles with substance abuse may find this extremely difficult, so prevention actually needs to start early and before temptation presents itself. In fact, a comprehensive relapse prevention plan accounts for social interactions, emotional triggers, and the development of positive coping mechanisms.
Staying Sober Is Not a Solo Gig
Whether you are dealing with drug or alcohol relapse prevention, staying sober is not a solo gig. By it’s nature, addiction isolates the addict. Conversely, recovery requires a network of support. As you move through your recovery process, make sure to interact on a regular basis with other people who are able to recognize issues and offer moral support.
The many benefits of finding a support group include:
- Gaining assistance with alcohol or drug relapse prevention plans.
- Reducing stress or depression through appropriate social interactions.
- Developing positive friendships with individuals who will not encourage drug or alcohol use.
- Learning to empower yourself and develop control.
- Engaging with an anonymous source of support and communication.
When in Recovery, Don’t Go It Alone
According to studies conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, men experience relapses more frequently than women do after completing treatment programs for drug addiction.
The main reason for this difference seems to be that women are more likely to seek outside assistance in the form of group counseling.
Prevention Means Watching for Warning Signs
“The best way to prevent sudden relapse is to understand warning signs and factors that commonly lead to relapse.”
In some cases, relapse can occur suddenly, and individuals struggling with drug or alcohol cravings can give in without reaching out for help. The best way to prevent sudden relapse is to understand warning signs of addiction and factors that commonly lead to relapse. Factors vary for each person and situation, but relapse causes include emotional triggers, social situations, and physical changes.
Some specific situations that can lead to relapse include:
- Loss of a loved one.
- Major financial changes.
- Change in employment.
- Social pressures or conflicts.
- Change in marital status.
- Boredom with life.
- Health issues.
When you or someone you love is in recovery, especially the first year, it is important to continually check for the warning signs of relapse and get help right away if they begin cropping up.
Relapse Prevention Requires a Plan
An important factor in planning for relapse prevention is to understand that you cannot control everything. For example:
- You can't dictate what other people will do and say.
- You can't control every environment.
- You can't hide in the safety of your home forever.
While you can make positive decisions to minimize relapse triggers in your life, there may be times when you must deal with strong cravings.
Experts recommend calling someone who is also in recovery as soon as you experience a craving or feel like you are unable to control your craving. This is the basis of the sponsorship structure popular with programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In order to make sure you follow through, writing your plan out as a reference point can be helpful.
Example: Create a Relapse Prevention Plan on an Index Card
While you should tailor your plan to what will work for you, below is an example of a quick plan that may help ensure you turn to healthy actions during periods of temptation:
- Create an index card you can carry with you in a wallet, purse or pocket.
- On one side, record the names and phone numbers for several people you can call as soon as you experience any sort of craving.
- Include sponsors and hotline numbers.
- Include contact information for supportive family members and friends.
- On the other side of the index card, write down 5 things you can do if you start to experience cravings, such as:
- Going for a job.
- Engaging in a social activity
- Attending a recovery meeting
Avoidance Is an Effective Tool
According to a study published in The American Journal on Addictions, avoidance behavior is one of the most successful addiction-relapse prevention tools. What this means is avoiding what some refer to as slippery situations, such as:
- Locations where your substance of choice is easy to access, such as:
- Bars or clubs.
- Homes of certain friends or family members who use.
- Events where drinking will be prevalent.
- Hanging out with anyone who abuses drugs or alcohol.
If you cannot avoid a situation where temptation may arise, consider using a buddy system by asking a close friend, family member or sponsor to attend the event with you.
IMPORTANT NOTE! Certain things are NOT healthy to avoid. Do not avoid situations that must be dealt with such as:
- Relationship issues.
- Your physical health.
Making Progress Every Day
It may sound like relapse prevention will be a daily struggle for your entire life. Don't be discouraged, however. With each day and each small success, it will get easier, and your cravings will not always be so strong.
The key is taking positive and appropriate action each time you struggle with your addiction. For help or additional information about alcohol and drug relapse prevention, please call our hotline toll-free at 1-888-966-8334.
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