Whether you have been clean and sober for weeks or years, it is essential that you know the signs of a potential relapse and have the coping skills you need to prevent it. Recovering from alcohol or drug addiction is a long-term process. In rehab, you learned the tools you needed to get clean and stay that way. But those relapse prevention tools have to be kept sharp. Although the reasons for relapse are different for each person, the coping skills are the same for everyone.
The Importance of Relapse Prevention
Not everyone relapses. It is not an inevitable part of recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction. But it can happen to anyone. Read on to learn some helpful tips to prevent a relapse from occurring.
1. Identify Your Personal Triggers and Be Aware of Them
Everyone in recovery has specific circumstances that are more likely to make them want to take a drink or use their drug of choice. Relapse triggers differ from person to person. Think about how you felt, both emotionally and physically, when you were drinking alcohol or using drugs. Determining what type of setting you were usually in and what you were usually doing at the time will help you learn some of your personal triggers. Although you learned many of your triggers during rehab, it is important to always be aware of them–and to be aware of any new triggers you discover as you continue with your sobriety.
2. Take Good Care of Yourself
Practicing good self-care is important for relapse prevention. Common relapse triggers include fatigue, insomnia, and hunger. By making sure you get seven to nine hours sleep every night, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly, you are helping to avoid these triggers. You can also practice good self-care by taking breaks during the day to stretch your muscles, taking at least one day every week off from work, and spending time doing things that you enjoy. By taking good care of yourself, you will feel better, improve your mood, and be more motivated to stay clean and sober.
3. Be an Active Part of Your Recovery Network
Your support network is there to help you on your recovery journey. They provide encouragement and accountability. You have someone to call in case of an emergency and someone to go with you to places where temptations exist. By staying connected to your recovery network, you are more likely to avoid a relapse.
Attend your homegroup 12-Step meetings, but also visit other groups. Share your story, chair a meeting, or help out by taking on the coffee or set-up commitment. When you are able, become a sponsor. By being an active participant in your recovery network, you are not only giving back, but you are also helping yourself to remain committed to sobriety.
4. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
The concept of mindfulness meditation teaches self-awareness. Individuals who learn to be more self-aware are better at coping with potential relapse triggers. A study published by the United States National Library of Medicine showed significant improvement of people in recovery from a substance use disorder who practiced a mindfulness meditation relapse prevention program. The participants in the study who used mindfulness meditation stayed clean and sober for a longer period of time. They experienced fewer cravings and increased feelings of acceptance and awareness.
When practicing mindfulness meditation, individuals learn how to understand and roll with their cravings; they learn to accept their cravings without giving in to them. They also learn how to let go of personal control and how to use meditation and prayer.
5. Practice Grounding Techniques to Ward off Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety and stress are two common triggers of relapse. Knowing ways to cope can help you avoid a potential relapse. Deep breathing is one important coping mechanism. Deep, rhythmic breathing affects your brain chemistry, improving mood and emotions. When you practice deep breathing, neurotransmitters in your brain trigger the release of feel-good chemicals, making you feel happy and relaxed. A deep breathing technique known as the 4×4 is very useful. You simply breathe through your nose to the count of four: a four-count as you inhale, and a four-count as you exhale. Do this four times, making sure you feel your diaphragm expanding and contracting with each breath.
Help Is Available
If you or someone you know need help overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available. Call and speak to a qualified professional at English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Our caring, supportive staff will give you the resources you need to start your journey to living a clean and sober life.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.