Relapse is a probability for 40–to–60 percent of individuals after addiction treatment.
This is an unfortunate statistic, but it’s not a prediction for your life. Each individual relies on various coping mechanisms and trigger-avoidance techniques to maintain sobriety.
10 Ways to Prevent Relapse
Consider these 10 methods for preventing relapse and craft an individual approach to affirm your dedication to a healthy, happy, and sober life.
1. Look at your continuum of care plan as a living document.
After rehab, your treatment team works with you to develop a continuum of care plan. Defining aftercare is a critical first step to maintain lifelong sobriety. Your plan may include details regarding continuing counseling, family therapy, medication, outpatient treatment or sober living, and life skills training.
You’ll continue to evolve, so check in frequently with your care providers to alter your plan if you feel a bit frayed and the usual methods aren’t working as well.
2. Avoid your typical temptations and triggers.
Let’s face it: after all you’ve learned about yourself in treatment, you’re well aware of the people, places, and situations that could prompt a relapse. However, stress, emotional or physical compromises, the desire to please people or fit in, and a long list of other factors might make someone with even the strongest resolve falter. In addition to the other suggestions listed here, remember to honor the work you’ve done to identify triggers, deglamorize drug or alcohol use, and disengage from risky behaviors.
3. Follow routines and rituals that matter to you.
Reliance on a structure doesn’t mean you’re no longer cool or fun. If anything, you’ll end up living life more fully. You’ll trust that once you accomplish aspects of your routine that keep you healthy, you’ll be more present for exploring, hobbies, family, friends, and other interests.
Also, consider the vital importance of ritual. Maybe you have a faith-based routine. Or take your dog for a morning run at the same time each day, rain or shine. Perhaps there’s a certain peace you find with a book and a cup of tea. Customizing rituals for whatever personal needs you want to meet reinforces your connection to self.
4. Establish a positive support network.
Your support network helps you feel seen and understood. It reduces loneliness. It provides connection. Whether you take advantage of Twin Lakes’ alumni programs throughout Georgia, use some form of a 12-Step or another recovery program, create stronger bonds with friends and family, commune with spiritual intent, or all of these, your support system reinforces your ability to stay sober.
Also, consider other ways to be social and engaged. Volunteering, for example, is a real boon for mental, emotional, and physical health. You have a purpose and associate with people committed to making positive change, which enhances your community.
5. Develop a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep hygiene plan.
Every comprehensive addiction treatment program incorporates these characteristics. Your body and mind require a whole foods diet to repair the damage caused by substances. Regular exercise activates brain chemicals that lift your mood, help vital organs function properly, and calm your sympathetic nervous system so you’re less likely to “fight or flight.”
A reliable sleep routine is essential for your health, too. Many people suffer insomnia after treatment, and this strains their ability to effectively reduce stress and manage triggers.
6. Maintain reliable stress relief techniques.
Stress contributes to chronic diseases and other negative health conditions. Fortunately, most rehab centers and therapists have the research to back up numerous stress-relieving techniques—in fact, many are already on this list. Others you can try are yoga, meditation, journaling, art therapy, practicing music, and passive muscle relaxation.
Also, consider breathing techniques. Long, focused breath activates the vagus nerve, one of the 10 primary cranial nerves. The vagus nerve is directly connected to your parasympathetic nervous system, also referred to as “rest and digest.” Here are some easy but effective breathing exercises, and a short sequence for passive muscle relaxation.
7. Find ways to enjoy nature.
Research continues to reinforce the powerful benefits of being in nature, and how it promotes healing, reduces brooding, and opens your mind to possibilities—all helpful for maintaining sobriety.
Maybe you simply want to read on the front porch in the afternoon sun or hike various trails to find the best views in Georgia. Perhaps you want to visit the coast or have a picnic in the park with your family. Whatever your preference, make time to be outdoors.
8. Remain dedicated to managing co-occurring conditions.
For people recovering from substance abuse, they often discover on the journey that depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are also present. During rehabilitation and outpatient services care, you might realize that staying sober isn’t your only health requirement—you also have to manage your mood or behavioral disorder.
Don’t worry. Many of the techniques on this list will help. Mental Health America offers these suggestions as well.
9. Believe in your strength, resilience, and willpower.
There’s nothing wrong with using various resources to help you stay well. You’ve made a monumental life shift by choosing sobriety. That takes courage and fortitude. Do what you can to reinforce your positive decisions.
Psychotherapist William Berry has ideas for increasing resilience and willpower.
10. If a slip happens, return to the principles that helped you achieve sobriety.
So, what happens if you land in that 40–to–60 percent relapse window? You try again. How you handle relapse is just as important as all the work you’ve put in thus far.
Take time to understand why it happened, consider alternative treatment options, and decide how you want to move forward. If you need additional guidance, the experts at Twin Lakes Recovery Center are ready to help.