Preventing Relapse After You Recover
Drug and alcohol addiction recovery is a process, and a process that continues for life.
Unfortunately, because no one is ever “cured” completely from the temptations of addiction, relapse is too often a part of the recovery process.
A drug or alcohol relapse does not mean the end of recovery, it’s merely a stage in the journey that needs to be effectively dealt with.
Although relapse can be emotionally difficult on both the recovering addict and the family, relapse should never mean an acceptance of failure.
It should simply mean that the addict needs to work harder than ever to get back to sobriety. There also needs to be an examination of what caused the relapse and how adjustments can be made to improved the sobriety plan.
Relapse, even after participation in a rehab program is common.
It’s safe to say that one or more relapses are more likely than not going to occur at some point in the journey to recovery. But that doesn’t mean that a relapse must happen, and for many people, one intensive and serious commitment to treatment is enough to motivate behavioral change and a lifetime of sobriety.
To increase the odds of long-term sobriety, the recovering addict needs to participate fully and honestly in all of the recovery and relapse prevention programs during treatment.
The recovering addict needs to work to discover their triggers to abuse, to develop a personalized recovery plan, and to follow that plan once rehab is completed.
The recovering addict must also make a long-term commitment to participate in aftercare programs.
No two addicts are alike. How one stays sober long-term and the other relapses, is hard to understand. In general, there are a few important components to success in drug and alcohol addiction treatment.
Practice Honesty & Commitment
No one but the recovering addict can induce personal change and growth, and create the best probability of long-term sobriety.
Making the use of all tools available in treatment must be maximized. Full, honest and introspective participation in recovery sessions allows for growth and self-awareness that makes future abuse less likely.
Anyone can go through the motions, and ultimately, even the toughest of programs cannot create internal change in a resistant person. Change comes from within, and change starts with a commitment to hard, emotional, and honest recovery and reflection.
Stick To Your Recovery Plan
Through an honest and committed participation in the therapeutic treatments of a drug and alcohol rehab program, recovering addicts gain a better understanding of their triggers to use, and the people, social and environmental situations that make abuse more likely.
Using this newfound awareness, recovering addicts need to create a detailed and comprehensive recovery and relapse prevention sobriety plan.
Making a plan for the first 30-days out of rehab helps resist temptation. It also encourages the practice of the lessons of rehab once back in the home environment.
Although making an honest and comprehensive recovery plan is important, the plan isn’t worth much if there is no commitment once back home.
The recovery and relapse prevention plan should keep you busy, keep you focused and keep you safe. Failure to follow an honest recovery plan increases the likelihood of drug and alcohol relapse.
It’s always difficult to stay true to a demanding recovery plan, but recovery is rarely easy, and a commitment to change and walking in sobriety will require sacrifices.
Continue Recovery In Aftercare
After drug and alcohol rehab, relapse occurs most frequently either in the very initial period once re-exposed to the triggers and temptations to use, and again a few months later.
The trap is when a person gains confidence with a period of sobriety and participation in aftercare seems unnecessary.
Recovery is a day to day process. If a person participates in some form of aftercare for at least 1-year, the chances of maintaining long-term sobriety are greatly increased.
Aftercare recommendation will vary based on the needs of the recovering addict, but aftercare will at a minimum consist of continuing peer group meetings at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and continuing occasional sessions with an addictions professional.
What Happens If I Relapse?
Drug and alcohol relapse doesn’t have to mean failure.
Too often, when faced with a quick relapse, recovering addicts and families feel like the whole process of recovery has been pointless, and recovering addicts use a small relapse as a justification back into full blow abuse.
The best way to deal with a relapse is not to have a relapse in the first place; and the best way to avoid relapse is to give everything you can to the rehab process, to follow your recovery plan to the letter, and to make continuing aftercare a priority.
If a drug rehab relapse occurs, it’s not the end of the world, and it simply means that more hard work is needed.
Failure can never be an option, and no matter how many relapses and rehabs it takes to achieve sobriety, ultimate success can be the only goal worth living towards.
Don’t Let A Slip Become A Relapse
The best way to stay sober is to minimize the temptations to use, and to rely on the support network offered by family, friends and professional aftercare services. But sometimes, despite our best intentions, we do fail, and we do slip.
Too often one day’s use can destroy all of our hard work, as we let that one slip lead us back into full relapse; and all of the pain and suffering of addiction once again.
If you slip, it does not mean that you are a failure, and it does not mean that you need to start using again. Get immediate help from your support network, and start living one day at a time once again.
The road to full recovery never ends, and a few bumps in the road are to be expected.
Have the courage and the strength to get help when you need it, and never think that because you’ve slipped, you have to go back to abuse. Most addicts that have successfully beaten their dependency have slipped or even relapsed once or more.
Recovery is a journey, and there is no overnight cure.
You should take steps to minimize the likelihood of a slip or relapse, and you do need to take responsibility for your actions and even your thoughts.
However, if a slip occurs, you need to deal with it, and not use it as an excuse to throw away all of your hard work and fall back into your old ways.
You don’t need to feel ashamed, but you do need to get help right away. Never be ashamed of your behavior, and never try to hide your slip from the people that care about you. Speak with your family, speak with your therapist; speak with anyone who you think can help!
The best way to maintain long term sobriety is to minimize the temptation to abuse, maintain appropriate family, peer and professional aftercare support, and live one-day-at-a-time with the goal of a-day-of-sobriety above all else.
The urge to use lessens with time, but you never know when that urge can come back with a vengeance. Often it’s after the addict thinks the real danger has passed, is when they are the most vulnerable to a slip.
The two periods that are most dangerous are:
- the period immediately after rehab
- the period a few months later, when confidence increases to the point it becomes easy to let down your guard.
Just After Rehab
When just out of rehab, the temptations of the home environment hit you, and you are no longer in the safe drug and alcohol free world of rehab.
Old friends will try to contact you, old situations will reemerge, and old stresses will bring back those cravings.
The addict has to restructure their lives to get rid of the temptations. What seemed so sensible and obvious in rehab can become more complex and problematic when it needs to happen in reality. This is where your relapse prevention program really needs to “kick in.”
Too many people give in to feelings of helplessness and powerlessness over their addiction during these initial days and weeks.
Many times an initial slip during these first few weeks can become a complete relapse into addiction. Remember the lessons learned during rehab, use the strength of your sponsor, family and real friends for support when you need it.
If you don’t have a relapse prevention plan, create one!
Take advantage of any aftercare services provided and make a real effort to rid yourself from the triggers to abuse. This period is never easy, and it can feel overwhelming, but just take it one day at a time, or even one hour at a time, and it will pass, and it will get easier.
Every day of sobriety makes that next one just a little bit easier, and remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Keep busy, enjoy the clarity of mind that sobriety brings and spend time with good friends and family.
Months Or Years Later
The second very dangerous period for a slip occurs after a period of months or even years, when we finally feel confident that we have beaten our addiction for good, and no longer need to attend meetings, or rely on the support of family and friends.
During this period of overconfidence, a sudden stressful, event, a major life change, or seemingly nothing at all, can happen to create a slip back into using.
Again, remember the lessons learned in rehab, and remember that these lessons were not intended to expire after a period of months. Live your life in such a way to minimize temptations, continue to rely on your support network and continue with a self-help program.
Addiction recovery is a process, and it can take a long time. Many people will need continual treatment throughout their life to deal with the temptations that lead to slips and full blown relapses. Get the help you need and do what’s necessary to get sober.
Remember, you are powerless over your addiction.
You can only hope to control it, but you will never beat it.
If you fall down, lift yourself up and carry on.
Everyone makes a mistake, but it takes real courage and strength to take responsibility for your actions, and get the help you need when you need it.