Addiction recovery doesn't end with rehab. It is a process that goes on after you've completed a treatment program. Even though you've successfully quit drugs or alcohol, there's always the risk of relapse.
What is relapse?
A person who has a history of substance abuse is said to be in "recovery" if they are sober and drug-free. Relapse is when you revert to a cycle of abuse or addiction.
Anyone who has ever abused drugs or alcohol is at risk for relapse. It doesn't matter if you've just started treatment or have managed to stay sober for years. Relapse can also happen anytime - such as during treatment, after an attempt to quit, or while in recovery.
Studies show that up to two-thirds of people who abuse substances relapse within weeks or months of starting rehab. Overall, up to 85 percent of recovering individuals relapse into substance abuse. While the risk is only highest in the first year of recovery, you will remain at risk for many years after.
Why do people relapse into drug or alcohol use?
Substance abuse gets you hooked by exposing you to excess amounts of the happy hormone, dopamine. Unfortunately, long-term use causes lasting effects on your brain.
Basically, what it does convince your brain that drugs and alcohol are the only two things that can make you feel better. This explains why you'll continue to experience cravings following drug rehab, and why you're prone to relapse.
Cravings are usually more pronounced whenever you're exposed to triggers. These include boredom, stress, and situations that remind you of your previous addictions. Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are also known to cause relapse in many recovering individuals.
6 Effective Coping Skills for Relapse Prevention
The goal of addiction treatment is to maintain recovery. One way of making this possible is if you learn coping skills.
Coping skills refer to strategies which you can use to deal with difficult emotions and stressful situations. In the context of addiction recovery, these are techniques which prevent relapse by:
Increasing your self-awareness and self-control
Reducing your exposure to triggers
Improving your ability to deal with triggers
Helping you fight off cravings
Getting help when needed
Below are some of the most effective coping skills which you can apply to prevent relapse.
1. Practice mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a form of mental exercise. It trains you to be more aware of your own thoughts and emotions, as well as how you respond to situations. Self-awareness is an important aspect of addiction recovery as it can help you identify triggers and actively avoid them.
Studies also show other benefits of mindfulness meditation such as reducing stress and addictive cravings, while enabling you to think clearer. Together, they can help you avoid relapse since you'll be in a better position to make healthy decisions.
2. Watch out for HALT
Whenever you feel the urge to use drugs or drink alcohol, ask yourself... Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? If you feel any of these, then it's likely to be the culprit of your craving.
Rather than give in to your impulse, you should find ways to solve whatever is causing the problem. For example, you can eat whenever you feel hungry, sleep when you're tired, and so on. Better yet, you can establish a self-care routine that ensures you get enough sleep and eat adequately every day.
3. Perform deep breathing exercises
Stress can easily trigger your cravings for addictive substances, and if you want to avoid relapse, you had better find ways to control it. In addition to mindfulness meditation, we recommend performing deep breathing exercises.
The technique has been proven to produce positive psychological and behavioral outcomes. These include:
Ease and comfort
Apart from stress, deep breathing can calm you down whenever you're upset or angry.
4. Make a list of your personal triggers
While there are universal triggers like HALT which increase your risk for relapse, every person in recovery will have unique triggers.
Generally, there are two types:
Internal triggers which are brought about by your thoughts, emotions, and memories. Examples of internal triggers are anxiety, low self-esteem, and trauma.
External triggers are tangible objects that stir internal triggers. Examples include people, places, music, and movies.
Start with a list of triggers that you are already aware of. Don't be afraid to list down specific details, such as hearing noises during a particular time of the day.
Whenever you encounter a trigger you didn't realize you had, add it to your list. Being aware of your personal triggers will help you avoid them in the future.
5. Establish a support system
Staying sober can be difficult when you've just started treatment, or if you suddenly find yourself in a situation that triggers cravings. Surrounding yourself with people who support your recovery can save you from a possible relapse.
Make a list of family and friends who are healthy and available. If possible, they should be people who are also in recovery and who have already undergone rehab.
Take note of their contact details so you can call them. Depending on the agreement, they can accompany you or pick you up, or you can visit their place.
6. Know when to get professional help
When all else fails and you find yourself relapsing into drug addiction or alcohol abuse, don't be afraid to get professional help. Relapse is a normal part of the recovery process. It isn't something that you should be ashamed about.
At Recovery BLVD we integrate relapse prevention into our addiction recovery programs. We teach mindfulness techniques, life skills, and other effective coping strategies which you can apply after you've completed rehab. During your stay at our addiction treatment center in Portland, you can access support groups and expand your list of people who can help with your recovery.
Should you relapse, we can provide advanced relapse prevention. Just call us at (866) 231-3007 or visit our drug rehab in Portland at 1316 SE 12th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214.