Relapse Prevention: Tips to Sustain Long-Term Recovery
When you develop a comprehensive relapse prevention plan (usually following a stay at an addiction treatment center) you consider specific people, places, events, and emotional states that can trigger cravings and eventually, use.
In your plan, you not only need to identify relationships with people who support you and your sobriety but also who may enable or encourage you to return to use. The following are suggestions to help you stay sober and avoid a relapse.
Build a support system. During recovery, most people do better with an extensive support network. In addition to leaning on loved ones, regularly attend an addiction recovery program such as AA or SmartRecovery. At these meetings you can foster friendships with people who will not judge, encourage substance use, or pull their support based on your past behavior.
Identify Relapse Risk Factors. Some people, situations, and events contribute to relapse more than others – you have to identify, understand, and learn how to manage triggers. Stressful circumstances such as the death of a loved one, unemployment or new employment, chronic health conditions or simple boredom can contribute to relapse in early recovery.
Follow your relapse prevention plan. Detox and treatment can be challenging, but the world outside will likely be far more difficult, and you will encounter triggers daily that you have little or no control over. Adhere entirely to this plan if you run into something unexpected or particularly stressful.
The following tips may help you avoid troubling situations and prevent relapse:
1. Make a list of triggers. Avoid trigger-inducing situations if you can, and make an escape plan to use if you feel trapped and vulnerable.
2. Deal with negative thoughts and feelings when they arise, instead of allowing them to add up and take control of your behavior.
3. Find healthy, constructive ways to manage anxiety, depression, and stress.
4. Treat yourself right. Eat healthy meals, be active, exercise, and engage in other physical activities you enjoy to keep busy and promote well-being.
5. Throw yourself into your work, school, or volunteerism. Begin a new hobby to keep yourself in learning mode and remind yourself you don’t need substances to enjoy the many pleasures of life.
Coping with Mental Urges
Cravings are a completely normal and nearly inevitable aspect of recovery. Managing cravings can take time, but you can be successful if you keep trying. Mindfulness practices may be the most powerful response to urges. When you feel a craving coming on, relax, breathe, and watch the urge “wave” rush in and then fall away again. Remember, most cravings don’t last for longer than 30 minutes.
Get Help Today
If you or someone you love is abusing substances, please seek treatment as soon as possible. There are many resources available to help you or your loved one.
Please call us today at 888-380-0342 for a free consultation.
~ Nathalee G. Serrels, M.A., Psychology