Relapse prevention strategies

Staying Sober After Detox and Preventing Relapse

Even after completing a sobriety program, the act of relapsing can still take the lives of people all over the world.  An addiction is classified as a chronic brain disease, which attacks stress management, overall mental health, physical behavior, and spirituality, and is characterized by an individual’s inability to control substance abuse. In fact, according to recent studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the likeliness for relapse with addiction matches the rates of other chronic diseases like asthma, hypertension, and type I diabetes at around 40 and 60 percent. That’s a huge amount, so it is pertinent that those who have succesfully detoxed and/or graduated from a rehabilitation program are armed with the tools they need to strengthen their relapse prevention coping skills, and therefore decrease the likelihood of relapsing.

How Does Relapsing Happen?

Staying sober after detox for a former addict can be incredibly hard, and is often considered as a common aspect of the disease of addiction. This indicates that developing strong techniques to avoid relapsing or being exposed to triggers is important.

When a person experiences a long-term addiction to mind-altering substances, be it alcohol or another type of drug, the process in which their brain functions is indefinitely disrupted by the repeated alcohol or drug abuse. The pathways that decide how a person feels pleasure or happiness towards rewards, manages impulse control, controls memory, and establishes decision-making are all shifted through frequent substance abuse.

As a result, the body starts to build a dependency that can negatively lead someone’s mental health down a dark path.

When a person checks into rehabilitation and undergoes a drug detox, they are trying to reteach their body how to build those pathways without the use of substances. A mental health and addiction treatment program may also try to teach the individual better stress management techniques, as well as guidelines for avoiding a relapse once they check out of the treatment center.

Unfortunately, even after the physical dependence is treated, people may still have a strong psychological dependence. Even with a strong aftercare program, some people may still relapse. This can be dangerous as there are many cases of people overdosing on a substance the first time they relapse. Thy overestimate their tolerance, and consume more drugs than their body can handle.

Common Relapse Triggers

As someone going through recovery, the strongest technique for preventing relapse is to identify your personal relapse triggers and create a step by step plan on how to manage them. While some common relapse triggers are obvious, others fall in a grey area that makes staying sober after detox tough for a beginner.

Often, relapse triggers are broken into the categories of affecting the emotional, mental, or environmental aspect of a person’s life.  

If recovery is your top priority, make sure you avoid becoming too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired during your daily activities. The acronym HALT is used to describe the most common high-risk situations for people going through recovery. HALT can be helped by planning meals, sticking to a strict sleep schedule, and aiming to have better stress management techniques.

Another common root of the problem of relapse is also a reluctance to reach out to others for support or accessing different interests outside of engaging in addictive substances. The more a person becomes socially isolated, the easier it is to rationalize drug or alcohol by themselves after they are influenced by their peer’s values. Social anxiety can also be an imminent struggle for many recovering addicts as they aim to become sober after detox. To help with this feeling, having a supportive group can help, such as joining a local sports team, art class, or any other group in the community who can encourage activities that truly wholesome and rewarding (and drug-free).

Lastly, one of the most damaging triggers is voluntarily putting oneself in social situations where drugs and alcohol are widely available. In order to build stronger relapse prevention and coping skills, sit down with someone and make a list of the people, locations, or activities that draw back memories of the old lifestyle that included frequent substance abuse. Then, make a plan of action for strictly avoiding these triggers. Some triggers may be less obvious, such as specific sounds, scents, or visuals that could trigger cravings in yourself.  

Final Thoughts

Having a relapse after you became clean is difficult to accept, but it’s not the end of the world. A relapse after completing treatment does not mean that treatment has totally failed. Seek expert resources that provide customized care and supportive insight for preventing triggers in the future. When a relapse occurs, steps should be taken to reduce the severity and duration of the relapse episode. Make sure you lay out the thought process you experience during a relapse to better realize how to stay substance free.  

If you consider yourself a patient who is struggling to overcome your addiction, consider the holistic therapy approach as well for a more effective recovery. While it may sound complicated, there’s many methods that are simple to try to practice holistic therapy and help you recognize triggers. One tip is setting time throughout the day to exercise mindfulness by taking a few minutes every day to meditate on the present moment.

Because we are constantly infiltrated by technology throughout the day, taking a short break from social media or our smartphones can help fill our mind with ease and force us to address our psychological health. Another method for mindfulness is by doing yoga and meditation, as it combines the body and mind to focus during the strength and flexibility exercise.

In combination with preventing relapse episodes, your mental and physical health can become stronger with the help of a rehab expert. Finding support that understands the importance of catering to each person’s needs is crucial. Put the work in for your future and you won’t regret the results!

22 thoughts on “Relapse prevention strategies

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