Relapse is, unfortunately, a common part of the recovery process. The reasons why people relapse and the effect it has on their long-term sobriety vary, but if you understand your triggers you can try to avoid them or figure out a plan for if you do relapse.
One trigger that can be difficult to avoid is holidays and celebrations. Consider New Year’s Eve, when everyone around you is likely to be drinking if you’re in public or at a party. You won’t want to avoid parties for the rest of your life, so figuring out a way to resist temptation is key. Try inviting a friend along to monitor and support you. Having even one person present who understands what you’re going through can make all the difference.
Problems at school, work, or home can all make you wish for the oblivion or temporary high of drugs. Sometimes, you’ll have to make hard decisions about what people to keep in your life, particularly if they are an enabler or drug user themselves. Learning how to deal with stressful situations is an important part of sober life, and you can find a sponsor or group to turn to when things seem overwhelming.
Boredom can also be a dangerous thing. Too much time to think can lead to dwelling on your problems, which might result in self-medicating. Find healthy, positive activities to fill your time. Take up a new hobby, find a sport to play, or even learn to enjoy a good book. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, a scary movie or a trip to an amusement park can give you the rush you crave. In one study of 156 addicts at a methadone clinic, the subjects’ reported levels of boredom were the only reliable factor that predicted whether they would stay on course.
If you have a mental illness such as anxiety or depression, make sure you continue to be treated for it as well as your substance abuse. This is especially important if your addiction stems from an attempt to numb your feelings with drugs.
Even something as simple as a long, tiring day can be a trigger for relapse. The acronym HALT (or hungry, angry, lonely, tired) describes what you might be feeling in this situation. There are ways to prevent this end of the day crash. Make sure to eat a healthy lunch so you won’t be starving by the evening. Join a group or turn to family or friends to deal with feelings of isolation. Learn to relax. If something makes you angry, take a deep breath and try to focus on something positive, or find someone you can vent to. Develop a sleep schedule, and stick to it. Avoiding large meals, caffeine, and electronics just before bed will improve the quality of your sleep.
If you do relapse, remember that it doesn’t make you a failure. 40 to 60 percent of addicts will relapse. It may just be a sign that you need to alter your treatment plan, such as finding a different type of therapy or attending a support group.
Whether it’s the first time you’re seeking assistance or if you’ve been down this road before, Asana Recovery is here to help. Call us at (949) 438-4504 to learn about our medical detox program, as well as residential and outpatient therapy.