Men and women in recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol will tend to relapse at some point in their recovery. In fact, relapse occurs so frequently in those who are recovering that it’s beginning to be seen by experts as part of the process of recovery. On the one hand, someone who is early in their recovery might almost expect relapse to happen as a part of their learning and growth. And on the other hand, that person should do everything in their power not to relapse and that means taking a careful look into relapse prevention.
Factors that May Contribute to Relapse
If you are doing everything they can to avoid relapse, it might be good to know the typical contributing factors that can lead to relapse. These can include:
- weak networks of support
- underlying or untreated mental illness
- beginning drug use early in life
- abusing multiple forms of substances
- poor coping skills
- attachment to the drinking or drug using life
- spending time with old drinking or drug-using friends
- not recognizing the severity of the addiction
Ways to Prevent Relapse
Once a person knows what tends to lead to relapse, they can work towards preventing it. For instance, if you recognize that you haven’t learned new coping tools to manage stress and intense feelings, and especially if that tends to be the trigger for drug use, then learning new coping mechanisms can be a way to prevent relapse. Other powerful relapse prevention strategies include:
- healing unresolved issues that lead to challenging emotions
- creating strong support networks
- treating any underlying mental illnesses
- changing one’s peer group to avoid old drinking or drug-using friends
- participation in forms of addiction treatment, such as 12-step meetings
- participation in therapy
- treating any painful physical conditions
- participating in a support group
- making amends with friends and family
- giving back to your community or others who are earlier in their recovery
The Power of a Sober Community
One of the most powerful ways to support sobriety and prevent relapse is being a part of a sober community. This might be regularly attending a 12-step meeting in your community, or another local group. The support of others can promote a feeling of connection. When you’re a part of a group, you tend to feel welcome among others who share the same goal of sobriety.
Tips for Relapse Prevention
If you find that you’re trying to stay sober and you’re fighting relapse, consider the following suggestions:
- Talk to someone. Discuss your feelings and thoughts with someone who will understand and who won’t be judgmental.
- Assess your commitment to sobriety. Why did you choose to get sober when you did? Did you want to save a marriage, your career, or get your kids back? What is your driving force? Reconnect to that purpose.
- Review the challenges you are experiencing. What is creating stress in your life? What are the difficulties you’re currently facing? If you can identify them, then you might be able to see the type of assistance you need to stay sober.
- Imagine what your life might be like if you were sober. What joys might you have? What freedoms would you experience? What do you need to give up in order to have this life?
- List the resources you need to prevent another relapse. Do you need to spend more time with other recovering addicts? Do you need to have more sessions with a therapist? Do you need a sponsor or a mentor?
If you or someone you know is in danger of relapse, the most important step to take is to contact a mental health provider. When a person is using again, they can quickly return to the same destructive and harmful cycles of addiction. To help save the life of a loved one or your own, contact a mental health professional today.