Tips to Prevent Relapse
In order to best understand tips to prevent relapse, you need to know how relapse occurs. Relapse prevention is vital for anyone that has had substance use treatment.
How does relapse happen?
There are many signs of someone who may relapse. It doesn’t always start with using again; it’s a process. Falling back into the use of substances is the last step of relapse. Relapse is a mental process. Understanding it can help you to stop it before it begins. Outlined below is one model of how relapse occurs. If you have just completed a substance use treatment program, it can help to think about your own behaviors as you read through the steps. If you can recognize the stages of relapse as they happen, you will know how to deal with them and take action to prevent relapse.
Stages of Relapse
It could be anything – good or bad, internal or external, mental or physical. A stressful day at work, running into an old friend who uses or achieving a goal and feeling proud could all be triggering events. The trigger itself doesn’t begin the relapse but it causes a change in your mental state. Usually it takes the form of a statement. This statement varies from person to person and situation to situation, but examples could include saying to yourself, “I’m a total failure,” “I’m not good enough to succeed,” or “I deserve to celebrate.”
Your interpretation of the trigger leads to cravings. Meaning, that the physical and psychological desire to engage in your old, harmful behaviors. This can be any behavior you’re trying to avoid, such as having a drink or going to the casino.
Your craving can then lead to thoughts where you give yourself permission to engage in the old behavior. These thoughts can take many different forms. Examples of this are: “I had a rough day at work. I need a cigarette.” “I haven’t had a drink in a month. I’ll be fine with just one.” “Maybe I’ll just have one hit with my old friend. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other.”
At this point in the process you give yourself an excuse for not engaging in your new pattern. Examples could be calling your old dealer, stocking up on beer for the weekend or “stopping by” on a friend you know is always supplied.
You allow yourself to use. This is the final stage of relapse.
Tips to prevent relapse
Identify high-risk situations
Identify for yourself which situations lead to relapse or any of the behaviors described above. These are high-risk situations for you. The reason rehabilitation at a substance use treatment facility works is because high-risk situations aren’t in your life.
High-risk situations can be internal or external in origin.
Examples of internal risk situations:
- depression, boredom, loneliness or fatigue
- excitement at the end of the day on payday
- feeling proud of an accomplishment
Examples of external risk factors are:
- an argument with your partner
- a call from an old “using” friend
- money stress
- a sporting or social event
Relapse prevention is different for each person. The most important thing you can do to avoid relapse is to develop a plan so you can avoid situations which lead to relapse or to any of the steps described above.
Work with your therapist at your substance use treatment center and develop a written plan to avoid relapse. List common situations and behaviors and how you will react to them.
A good substance use treatment program will be able to offer you a number of resources to avoid relapse. Support groups can be very effective, and your substance use treatment center will be able to recommend local groups that can help and provide support.
Lifeline Connections commits to long-term wellness for our patients. For example, we offer an integrated, holistic approach that includes substance use disorder treatment, therapy and case management. Our doctors specialize in the treatment of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, working to solve ones that have a compounding effect. Contact us and reclaim your life.
Contact a doctor for a referral or find a therapist. They can work to design a custom plan for wellness. Secure treatment is over the phone or computer with telehealth, providing coping skills for grief, loss, depression and anxiety. Moreover, they will work with you one-on-one to get you feeling better.