If you have just gone through rehab or are considering addiction treatment, you may see completing it as the end goal, but, there are some steps to come after this, like relapse prevention.
Recovery is a long journey, dotted with struggles and potential steps backwards. Overcoming setbacks is a massive part of long-term recovery and relapsing is the biggest one there is.
Many people relapse during the first year clean, but that doesn’t mean you are destined to. Knowing about relapse prevention and being prepared for it can help you stay clean – keeping your addiction in as a part of the past.
What is Relapse and Why Does it Happen?
A person suffering from drug addiction or alcoholism will experience temptations to go back to old habits. Sometimes these urges cannot be contained, and sadly people end up drinking or taking drugs once again – this is known as relapsing.
Relapsing is more common than you might think and even the strongest-willed person can slip up, so the most important thing is to know why it happens and what to do if this happens to you or a loved one.
There are many common relapse triggers for a person. HALT is an acronym that stands for Hunger, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Being any of these things in your life can cause distress and may lead you to relapse.
Continuing physical and mental illnesses can be a trigger, whilst on the other hand, overconfidence can cause you to relapse. This confidence may lead to complacency where you think you can have one drink and nothing else.
Similarly, overconfidence can lead you to abandon recovery support, leaving you without a relapse prevention plan.
As well as these factors, situations in which you are under social pressure or in an old environment (such as a party or with people taking drugs), greatly increase the risk of relapsing. Not only that but even getting into a new relationship within the first year of recovery is discouraged as you are putting yourself in an emotionally vulnerable position.
The most important thing is to identify your triggers and find ways to avoid or cope with them in everyday life.
Stages of a Relapse
A relapse doesn’t happen quickly. It is usually the endpoint of a slower process. There are 3 recognised stages of relapse: emotional, psychological and physical, so let’s look into these further.
This is the first stage and during this you may not be thinking about drinking or using drugs. Emotions and behaviour can lead you into a position where relapsing becomes a preferable outcome.
During this stage you may find that you are not enjoying staying sober after rehab, you may have isolated yourself socially and could be experiencing mood swings. During this time people often back away from after-rehab support, no longer attending peer support groups or engaging in aftercare, if this happens, take it as an initial warning sign.
This progression occurs as you don’t acknowledge the emotional relapse, your mind is now split, with one side wanting to relapse and the other half wanting to stay sober. At this point, you may begin to fantasise about your addiction and may experience more intense cravings. You may start to plan your relapse and convince yourself that you can control your drinking or substance abuse this time.
This is the final stage, without acknowledging the previous stages, you will go out and drink or use drugs.
As you have taken active steps to go back to destructive behaviour, it is hard to stop a relapse at this point. While you may convince yourself that this time it will be different, it is likely going to end in you needing drug and alcohol rehab treatment again.
Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan
Staying sober after rehab is a difficult thing to do. People who succeed in their recovery do so because they have a relapse prevention plan, acknowledging that you will be tempted to go back to old habits and readying yourself is just as important as getting clean in rehab from the get go.
During your time in alcohol or drug rehab, you will work with aftercare specialists that can help you create a relapse prevention plan. They will help you identify your triggers and figure out strategies on how to cope with them.
Coping with triggers and cravings is easier when you have a plan. If you can identify them then you can take action. Distracting yourself, practising self-affirmation, using relaxation techniques and taking steps to be social are all strategies for heading off triggers and cravings.
Your relapse prevention plan should have achievable goals to help you stay focused and positive. It will also give you a structure that can be built around attending peer support groups.
Self-Care for Relapse Prevention
Cravings and triggers may come on quickly and you cannot always immediately get the support you need. Knowing about self-care for recovery is vital to remaining sober.
Being physically healthier is proven to improve your mental health. Getting a sweat on and moving around can be a good distraction from cravings, typically when you are moving, you are not thinking about drugs or alcohol. A brisk walk or run with some music on can help you ride out any unwanted feelings.
On the other side of the spectrum, mindfulness can help you remain focused on recovery and slow everything down. Taking time out to meditate, do yoga and just check in with yourself to see how you are feeling can help you. Some downtime will help you see the progress you have made and that your life is better and free of addiction.
What you put into your body can be important to relapse prevention. A balanced diet will leave you feeling healthier and give your body all that it needs, substance abuse and alcoholism may have caused damage to you and eating healthy will aid the healing processes in your body.
How Relapse Prevention deals with Setbacks and Addiction Triggers
In every journey, there is a chance you fall, recovery is no different. Whilst there should be no expectation you may suffer a setback, accepting it could happen is important to deal with it.
Triggers that may cause setbacks are a normal part of recovery. To live a normal life, you will come up against things that could lead you back to addiction, so the easiest way to avoid triggers is to stay away from places, people and things that you know could set you off.
Use individual therapy to work on coping with cravings and your triggers. It also helps to connect with someone who is a professional and familiar with the experiences you are having.
If you do have a setback then it is not the end of the world. You should accept responsibility for it and see it as an opportunity to grow; from mistakes, you can gain clarity and learn what to do better. In many cases, setbacks can make you stronger and lead to long-term success.
Aftercare and Support at Rehab
Group therapies and talking therapies such as CBT will feed into the relapse prevention you will practise after leaving rehab. In these sessions, you will learn more about your addiction and how to cope with triggers on the outside.
Emphasis will be put on engaging in aftercare when you leave, you’ll be provided with the opportunity to take part in a free aftercare programme, giving you access to group meetings and additional therapy if you need it.
Building a support network is vital to staying sober after rehab as you can make connections and see you are not alone in your journey.
Get Help Today
If you have an alcohol addiction or substance abuse problem and want to know more about relapse prevention, Action Rehab can help.
We are an advisory service that can provide you with addiction recovery tips, information about addiction treatment and help you find a rehab centre.
To get started, call us at 0151 268 6992.
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