Utilizing a Relapse Prevention Plan
January 10th, 2017
“Sobriety is a journey”. This is a phrase you may hear over and over when new to recovery from drugs and/or alcohol.. Why is this? Addiction is a disease of the brain that causes an individual to compulsively use and abuse a substance(s) even after a person has suffered negative consequences as a result of their use.
Because of this, both sobriety and recovery require constant diligence and upkeep in order to maintain a solid foundation for a drug-free life. It is in this pursuit that a person must strive to actively revisit, reiterate and reclaim the skills and lessons learned in recovery, as a means to further enhance, and protect, recovery from relapse.
Understanding how relapse happens and taking active measures to prevent it is an integral aspect of recovery from addiction. Learn how developing a Relapse Prevention Plan can strengthen your sobriety while lowering your risk of relapse.
The Dangers Of Relapse
Not only can relapse return you to an addicted state, if not properly addressed, but it can forge a viscous cycle of a person continuously relapsing and never reaching true recovery from addiction.When a person relapses on drugs or alcohol after a period of abstinence they have a higher risk of overdose due to a diminished tolerance, The same amount of drugs that they once used daily to get high often prove to be lethal.
Understanding The Descent To Relapse
Relapse does not always happen instantly, on the contrary, it often happens slowly, a collective of thoughts, emotions and behaviors gradually building until they culminate in what appears to be a singular event—a return to drugs or alcohol. A highly informative Yale publication, “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery,” speaks of this in greater depth, asserting that there are three stages of relapse, as follows, which lead a person towards ultimately returning to substance abuse.
In this stage, a person may be firmly adamant about not using, to the extent they may overlook, or contain, certain emotions that weaken them in a way that creates a susceptibility to relapse. Within this point, a person may be more actively concerned with another person’s emotional state or refrain from going to support meetings. The publication also spoke of the acronym H.A.L.T as a significant component within this step, please continue reading for more information on this subject.
At this point, a person may be warring with themselves—their thoughts may continuously vacillate between thoughts of using and abstaining, marked by, as taken from the publication:
- craving for drugs or alcohol
- thinking about people, places, and things associated with past use;
- minimizing consequences of past use or glamorizing past use;
- thinking of schemes to better control using;
- looking for relapse opportunities; and
- planning a relapse.
As these thoughts gain momentum, the final step occurs.
An initial lapse to drug or alcohol use may lead to “a mental relapse of obsessive or uncontrolled thinking about using,” which then precipitates physical relapse.
The publication urges the importance of a person developing an awareness of the potential triggers or thoughts of relapse against the development of critical coping skills and exit strategies.
Understanding The Risk Factors For Relapse
It is the factors that exist prior to the physical moment of using, that we must concern ourselves with. In better understanding these elements, a person can more actively work towards being preemptive and protecting themselves. Certain events, thoughts and circumstances may elicit thoughts of using (craving) or self-medication, pushing a person towards relapse, these may include:
- Negative emotions or self-deprecating mindsets
- Reduced focus on self-care
- An attempt to “forget about the addiction”
- Becoming over-confident
- Boredom or a sense of idleness
- Lack of peer or family support
- A sense of isolation
- Failure to attend meetings
- An overall unhealthful environment
- Co-occurring disorders (anxiety and depression)
- Instances of trauma or major life experiences
- Pressure or opportunities to use
- Triggers, cues or temptations that create thoughts of using
- Stress (this is often one of the biggest triggers of relapse)
- Overwhelming symptoms of withdrawal
Again, these risk factors may occur over a period of time, culminating in a return to substance abuse. Understanding and acknowledging them can help a person to be more attentive to their presence, while helping them to develop and/or maintain coping skills that are specific to combating each specific risk, should it arise.
The Five Rules Of Recovery
The Yale publication states that the main components of recovery are cognitive therapy and mind-body relaxation, which together yield a more effective arsenal of coping skills. Cognitive therapy works towards uprooting negative thoughts, mindsets and behaviors and instead replaces them with new ones. It also, as the article outlines, can teach a person how to again have fun (without substances), learn from setbacks within their recovery and “becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable, or coming to realize that negative emotions are not necessarily indicative of failure but instead provide insight into ways by which we need to grow.
In addition, the author also details the following five rules for recovery:
- Change your life — You cannot return to the life you had within the addiction, to wish this is, essentially, to desire a state that would impose relapse. Instead, as difficult as it may be, you need to strive towards positive changes and rebuild your life.
- Be completely honest — Work towards overcoming denial and other self-imposed lies that were prevalent within addiction. This rule requires self-honesty and also a “recovery circle,” a group of individuals with whom you are honest about your struggles within recovery; this may include family, friends, coworkers or various addiction professionals.
- Ask for help — Though it is a personal journey, recovery is not something you should attempt on your own. Individuals who take part in self-help groups witness better odds of a long-lasting recovery.
- Practice self-care — The article notes that “Most people use to escape, relax, or reward themselves,” hence, within recovery, a person must work towards integrating new and healthy approaches that yield these feelings in a positive capacity. It is important to realize how selfishness is differentiated from self-care; a person needs to take care of themselves, before they can successfully offer care to anyone else. It is here that the mind-body relaxation comes in—supported by research, this method has been shown to enhance relapse prevention, reduce stress and allows a person a means by which to let go of past hurts and circumstances.
- Don’t bend the rules — It may be human nature at times to desire to do something “your way,” a mindset that may actually sabotage recovery. The paper’s author also asserts that there are two types of individuals in recovery, those who are ready to move forward into sobriety, the “non-users;” and those who believe at some point they will return to substance abuse after they’ve accomplished a significant portion of their recovery, the “denied users.” Knowing which of these types you are may help to better prepare you for contingencies or negative thoughts that may arise throughout recovery.
By living mindfully of these rules, a person may maintain better control over their recovery and continue to cleanse their life.
Don’t Forget To “H.A.L.T.”
Another helpful way to simply and easily remember some of the core triggers of relapse is by the helpful acronym we spoke of previously, H.A.L.T., which in itself urges an individual to take pause, assess the situation and center themselves, while the acronym stands for four common precursors to relapse. Ask yourself—are you feeling these ways?
This state may go beyond simple physical hunger, though it definitely includes this, as a state of malnutrition and poor eating habits often precede, and arise from, addiction, in a way that may linger throughout recovery, continuing to aggravate a person’s health. In order to achieve a state of maximum wellness and stability, it is crucial a person adopt good nutritional habits.
Beyond this though, a person may hunger for more intangible things, yet equally important things—love, acceptance, companionship, understanding or a sense of fulfillment. This is why it is so pertinent within recovery to create, maintain and revaluate goals, while also taking care to have a solid and engaging support system around you.
Anger can rise from many things—past events, fear, disappointment, a family member or loved one or even yourself. It is important to remember that anger, within healthy bounds, is a normal emotion, which will be experienced throughout life. However when left unchecked, anger can get out of control and become detrimental to your recovery.
For this reason, you must look inward and consider why you’re experiencing this emotion and seek to handle it in the most appropriate way possible. Work to find constructive solutions that allow you to free yourself from it, rather than destructive thoughts, emotions or behaviors that only serve to perpetuate the negativity.
This negative state of mind can be debilitating. It is, in fact, a mindset that may have led many individuals to drug seeking and using in the first place. Loneliness can occur even when you’re around people, as it can be hard to return to your life after a period of addiction—living a sober and drug-free life may be daunting and overwhelming and you may feel that people don’t understand you or what you’re going through. In addition, you may find that your social circle has become much smaller, as you’ve weeded out the individuals who provided negative or drug-using influences.
In these moments, it is critical that you chase this sense of isolation by calling a friend/loved one or by reaching out to a support group. No matter who it is, share with them what you’re experiencing as a means to find the accountability, support, acceptance and encouragement that can be so crucial during this time. Rely on your faith in these times of loneliness and remember that you are never truly alone,.
An addiction wreaks havoc on a person, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually—all ways, that when experienced individually, or combined, can lead a person to feel very drained and out of sorts. When a person used drugs or alcohol on a regular basis within their addiction, it is very common that they let many, or most, of their life’s responsibilities fall to the wayside. Now that you’re sober, you’re faced with all of these things again, along with a renewed interest in taking control over your life. While it is important to remain active and engaged within your life, it can be detrimental to a person in recovery—especially within the earliest stages—to over exert themselves. Remind yourself to take it slow. Take the time to create a list of tasks or goals and create a balanced approach towards working on them.
In order to help your body heal and stay primed for what life delivers, you need to stay rested. If you feel exceptionally tired, strive to better moderate your sleep schedule or even take a small nap. Sometimes, the fatigue may be a weariness derived from an emotional or spiritual level; in these instances, reach out to a friend, do something inspirational or take time to read your Bible or go to a Bible study.
If you’re feeling any of these states of mind, don’t keep them to yourself. Though it is important to cultivate introspection and a greater state of self-awareness, it is also important that you reach out and draw upon your support network, should your resolve begin to falter.
The Importance Of Good Support
Humans are by nature social creatures. We exist in a state that mentally, emotionally and even spiritually requires that we interact and learn from those around us. It is when we fight or negate this state, that we begin to put ourselves in a dangerous spot. Isolation and loneliness can be very dangerous to a person in recovery. Isolation and relapse all too often go hand in hand with each other.
On the other end of the spectrum, a person may feel over-confident in their newfound recovery, Relapse can result in this scenario due to the individual not keeping his guard up in high risk relapse situation, Both isolation and overconfidence can be detrimental to a person’s health, sobriety and recovery and should be avoided at all costs. Utilizing a sponsor, support group, or twelve-step program will help keep a person new to recovery in check and provide a safe, social environment to grow spiritually.
Friends and family
Make time within your week to spend with friends or family members who support you within your recovery and be honest with them—though this can be hard, having this measure of accountability will serve to better support you in the instance that relapse does become a concern. In addition, spending time with these people doing quality things will hopefully inspire you and renew your zeal for life.
Support groups provide you with unparalleled access to other individuals who have struggled on similar journeys. They are an excellent resource, which provides you with testaments of these individual’s struggles, access to coping skills and methods that may have worked for them, a sense of belonging and fellowship, positive affirmation and encouragement.
Embrace Recovery and Achieve Long-Lasting Sobriety Today
Recovery is a multifaceted endeavor, one that requires a person to be proactive, instead of reactive. Creating a life free from addiction isn’t always easy, yet it is possible. Building a life of greater resilience, peace, humility, mindfulness and balance can help a person in creating a stronger foundation for a drug-free life, especially when paired with the pursuit of a Christ-centered life.
Contact a representative of Spring to Life to at (855) 461-0482 to learn more about our Christian-based Men’s Drug and Alcohol Recovery Program.