5 Tips to Help Prevent Relapse

Text us
Graphic showing 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique

Every person in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is at risk for relapse, regardless of how long they haven’t used the addictive substance. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is a mental disorder characterized by compulsive alcohol and drug use, which results in long-lasting changes to the brain.

Addiction has no known treatment, similar to other diseases like asthma and hypertension. Relapse is a standard part of all chronic diseases, and addiction is no exception. According to studies, relapse rates for substance use disorder range from 40 to 60 percent.

It doesn’t imply failure if you are in recovery and have relapsed. It does not negate your past struggles and efforts to remain drug-free nor indicate that any treatment programs you attended were unsuccessful.

Although there is no treatment for addiction, measures may be taken to avoid relapse. Purposeful and continual effort is required to fight the devastating effects of dependence on the brain. There are lots of helpful online measures available for you to support you in your long-term recovery journey. The following tips might provide some valuable ideas to incorporate into your recovery to stay sober and live a happy life.

Avoid Triggers

A “trigger” is anything that might cause you to return to your disordered thoughts and behaviors. Each individual has unique triggers. Consider how you generally feel, both physically and mentally, when you take drugs or alcohol, as well as what setting you are usually in and what you are doing at the time. Your counselor will assist you in identifying your triggers in deeper length.

  • Withdrawal symptoms (nausea, anxiety, physical weakness)
  • Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (irritability, anxiety, poor sleep, mood swings)
  • Things (that were part of your use or that remind you of using)
  • Uncomfortable feelings (HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired)
  • Isolation (gives you way much time to be with your unhealthy thoughts)
  • Places (where you used to buy substances or where you used drugs or alcohol)
  • Pride and overconfidence (perceiving that you don’t have an alcohol or drug problem or that it is behind you)
  • Poor self-care (stress management, eating, sleeping)
  • People (old friends who use drugs or alcohol)
  • Relationships (can be stressful if anything goes wrong)

Develop a Support System and Use it

Surrounding yourself with loving, supportive, and encouraging people is crucial. These people may be members of your family, your friends, or your caregivers. They will be there to offer support and help when you are confronted with a challenging situation. It is not always simple to ask for assistance, but you should feel comfortable doing so when needed. 

Some individuals find it helpful to compile a list of names and phone numbers to contact if they begin to revert to unhealthy old thought patterns. Particularly in the early stages of recovery, it is recommended to schedule regular check-ins with a trusted individual to assess your progress and monitor warning signals of relapse.

Grounding Techniques

Anxiety and stress are often the biggest hurdles in recovery from addiction. A helpful relapse prevention technique, known as the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique, guides you through the five senses to help you concentrate on the present and prevent thoughts of using alcohol or other drugs.

The five steps begin with a few deep breaths, then proceed as follows:

5. SEE: Acknowledge five things that you see around you.

4. TOUCH: Acknowledge four things that you can touch around you.

3. HEAR: Acknowledge three things that you can hear around you.

2. SMELL: Acknowledge two things that you can smell around you.

1. TASTE: Acknowledge one thing that you can taste around you.

This practice will conclude with a long, deep breath. Focusing on your senses can help you develop self-awareness and enhance mindfulness, which will assist you in completing everyday chores, overcoming unhealthy thought patterns, feeling more in control and less overwhelmed, and reducing the risk of relapse.

Get Better Sleep

According to the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), insomnia and fatigue are common potential relapse triggers for someone recovering from addiction. 

However, one can improve sleep quality by incorporating a balanced diet and physical activity. This may be accomplished by developing a structured schedule to sleep, exercise, and food plan and adhering to it. Doing so makes it possible to retrain the body to sleep better and lower the chances of relapse.

Join a Support Group

12-step meetings and other recovery support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide you with access to a community of people who understand your challenges and struggles. There are support groups for every conceivable issue, from substance abuse and alcoholism to gambling and obesity. Some people do not appreciate the 12-step method of recovery, so groups like SMART Recovery or Refuge Recovery may be helpful for them to avoid the risk of relapse.

Picture showing relapse rate of substance use disorder (SUD)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you prevent relapse?

Preventing relapse is possible. Implement the following tips in your life to stay sober and lead a happy drug-free life.

  • Attend your addiction treatment program all the way through
  • Have an aftercare plan
  • Develop a support network and stick to it
  • Find a professional therapist for ongoing individual therapy
  • Attend 12-step meetings or other recovery support group
  • Discover new hobbies
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Don’t quit in case of relapse

What is the number one cause of relapse?

Isolation and boredom can easily be cited as leading causes of relapse by many individuals in the early stages of recovery. Before recovery, most of their free time was spent getting, consuming, and recovering from their substance of choice. 

When a person is bored or feeling alone, they are left with themselves, and, as the saying goes, a drug addict alone is in poor company. When an addict feels bored or alone, they are at higher risk of relapsing by engaging in old thought patterns and unhealthy behaviors.

What does relapse prevention involve?

A relapse prevention plan is a written document that assists in recognizing relapse warning signs, avoiding relapse triggers, and preventing a return to chronic substance abuse. After completing a treatment program, your recovery expert or sponsor should assist you in developing a written relapse prevention plan. 

It will likely contain a thorough action plan to help you in initiating a personal self-care strategy, identify techniques you will use to cope with urges and cravings, and compile a list of individuals you will contact if you use drugs or alcohol.

What are some relapse prevention skills?

After recovery from addiction, one can prevent relapse by adapting the following relapse prevention skills, such as:

  • Self-care
  • HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, and tired)
  • Knowing your triggers
  • Grounding techniques
  • Joining a support group
  • Developing a support system
  • Meditation
  • Getting help
  • Never quitting in case of relapse

Get and Stay Sober with the help of The Haven Detox

After a relapse, some people may feel like they have failed their recovery. Instead of being disheartened, it is recommended to recommit to recovery. In the end, a person who relapsed after treatment is still in a far better position than before. 

Relapse is a chance to learn how to make the necessary changes to prevent future relapses. It is essential to understand recovery for what it is: a process of lifelong learning, change, and development.

If you need help with a substance use disorder, The Haven Detox is here to help you create confidence and momentum toward your desired future. We treat people addicted to alcohol, opioid, meth, suboxone, methadone, and other substance use disorders.

Relapse prevention is a part of all levels of care in The Haven continuum of care:

Contact us at (561) 328-8627 today for additional information!

Leave a Comment