How to Avoid Relapse
Drug addiction is a disease. Making the decision to stop using drugs once addiction has developed is not an easy task. It takes time, patience and practice. As with any disease, such as hypertension, it is possible to relapse. When a drug addict who has reached their goal of sobriety uses drugs, they have relapsed. This does not mean that they are a failure or that their stint in rehab didn’t work. It simply means that the symptoms of their disease have reappeared and adjustments need to be made to their treatment model.
Methods for Avoiding Relapse
This might mean another few weeks or months in a treatment program, or it may mean an adjustment of specific medications designed to treat underlying dual-diagnosis conditions. Regardless of the causes and effects of relapse, it is the goal of every recovering addict to avoid relapsing. There are several proven methods that can help the recovering addict reach this very important goal.
- Change your friends. Once you have made the decision to not use drugs, you must change everything about your routines and your life. Choosing new friends may be the first step in that process. If you are no longer going to expose yourself to the temptation of drug abuse, spending time with people who use drugs is not an option.
Triggers can be very powerful influences in the life of a recovering addict. There may be times when you remember celebrating with a close friend over a few drinks and a few very dangerous pills or other substances. In a weak moment, it is possible to desire that same kind of camaraderie. It is even possible that you will find it difficult to be with certain friends without drugs and alcohol, especially if these are the only things you have in common with them.
Instead of returning to the same social circles as you frequented previously, consider joining a local book club that meets at a bookstore or library where drug use would not be tolerated. Before you decide to socialize with members of the group outside of this safe setting, get to know them and their views on drug abuse. Once you have determined that they have the same ideals that you are fostering in yourself, consider adding them to your real friends list.
- Do not visit old haunts. There are certain places where drug use is part of the culture. These locations may include:
- Dance clubs
- Certain parts of college campuses
- The homes of friends who use drugs
If you are serious about maintaining your sobriety, avoid these locations even if you have emotional connections to them. In some cases, if the location is on your way to work or school, you may want to consider finding a new route.
Stress is a part of life. How we handle that stress is what can make or break the possibility of relapsing. If you happen to pass the bar where you used to buy drugs or drink heavily, the temptation to revisit these old memories may prove too difficult to ignore. It is better to find a new way home.
- Consider a sober living home. A sober living home is a proven method for increasing the chances of successfully avoiding relapse. It is generally a private residence occupied solely by individuals in recovery. Living with others who understand the importance of sobriety can provide support and encouragement during times of temptation or stress.
There are generally several requirements to living in a sober living home:
- You must pay rent.
- You must attend support meetings either in the home or at nearby facilities.
- You must not use drugs or alcohol.
- You must provide your share of the household chores.
Each sober living home will have a set of in-house rules and a method of governing the household, of course. Visiting several homes before deciding on a permanent or temporary residence is important to make sure that personalities mesh and that you can live with the structure the home will provide.
- Formulate a plan to avoid relapse. Part of the disease of addiction consists of cravings for drugs or alcohol. While many individuals report a lessening of the cravings as sobriety continues, there will be times when your body remembers the drugs it used to receive and wants more. These cravings can cause relapse if you do not have a plan to handle them at a moment’s notice.
Some recovering programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, encourage participants to have a sponsor. This individual is your lifeline to talking through the cravings and avoiding relapse. You do not need to be an active member in these organizations to use this process to get through difficult times.
Discuss your situation with non-drug-using friends or supportive family members. Set up a network of people you can call in the case of an emergency. Your craving may come in the wee hours of the morning, right in the middle of Christmas dinner, or any other inconvenient time. When you discuss your needs and wishes with your support group of friends, make sure you can call them at any time.
Once you have received the go-ahead from this network, use it. Do not hesitate to contact someone because it might not be a “reasonable” hour, or you are worried you will pull them away from something important. If they have discussed your possible need for an emergency support system, trust that they meant it when they told you to call them at “any time, day or night.” In that moment of crisis, you are more important to them than anything else they may be doing.
- Remember rehab. Some rehab facilities offer refresher courses for a small fee or even free of charge. When the temptation to use drugs or alcohol grows significantly strong, consider returning to rehab for a few days to get past the increased cravings.
Once you have returned to your normal life and established a new routine, you may find yourself reluctant to leave it. Will returning to rehab, even for a few days, put everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve in jeopardy? What about your new job? Can you really afford to take the time off work?
If you relapse in your addiction, you will definitely put your new, successful life in danger. If you return to your former habits of drug abuse and irresponsibility, you may find that you have no job to lose. You can’t afford not to take the time off that you need to continue your treatment.
If you were suffering from a life-threatening disease like cancer and discovered that your body had developed a new tumor, would you take time off work to treat it? Of course you would. Your life is worth finding a new job. Your life is worth creating an atmosphere that is conducive to healing.
- Discuss your disease with your employer. Stress on the job is unavoidable. Asking your employer to help you avoid stress is certainly an option, depending upon your line of work, of course. But more importantly, it is advisable to let your employer know about your illness and the effects the illness may have on your work schedule.
If you need an extra half-hour during lunch to make sure you can attend a support group meeting, try to arrange a modified work schedule with your boss. Perhaps you can come in a half-hour early or stay a half-hour late each day to make up for the lost time. Rushing to your meetings and back can place you, and others on the road, in danger, and will only increase the stress in your life. Most employers will see the benefit of helping their employees to live healthy lives as it impacts job satisfaction, productivity and performance.
- Take your medication regularly. Roughly 50 percent of recovering drug addicts suffer from a dual diagnosis. If you are one of them, it is crucially important to remember to take your medication, even when you feel great.
Anxiety disorders, depression and many other psychological conditions contribute to the use of drugs and alcohol. The symptoms of these disorders are successfully controlled with medication in many instances. Unfortunately, the medications work so well that the symptoms sometimes disappear completely. This can mislead a recovering addict into believing that they are “cured.”
There is no cure for these types of mental illness. The only way to keep the symptoms at bay is to take the medication regularly. If the medication is stopped, the symptoms will return and prompt the same self-destructive behavior as they did prior to rehab, diagnosis and treatment.
Each day of your life is a new step in the right direction. Even if you happen to relapse on any given day, you can make the changes in your life to learn from the fall and pick yourself back up. Relapsing is not an excuse to use drugs; it is a reason to resist further use of drugs and continue your recovery with determination and pride.
Family Help Guide
Family member support is extremely important in the recovery process of a loved one with an addiction or mental illness. As a caring member of the family, your roll can help make a difference and increase the success rate of a full recovery. While it might not be you who is struggling with a substance abuse issue, if someone in your family is, you should do your best to show your love and support since they might not have anyone else they can turn to for help.
The price tag for rehabilitation and treatment can be a hefty one that can potentially put a strain on you or your family's finances. With that said, don't let the cost or rehab keep you from getting someone the help they need. There are numerous options that can make paying for it manageable. Insurance and payment plans are always a good option and also searching for affordable services that don't cost the same as a luxury facility is a smart idea. In the end though, can you really put a price on the health and wellness of someone you care about?
Once the main recovery program is complete and you or your loved one return to daily life, now comes a great challenge; that is, the challenge to stay clean and avoid relapse. Relapse can occur at any time for any number of reasons but by being prepared and staying vigil, you can succeed and go on to live a long and fruitful life.
Research and Studies
Get the latest addiction statistics and find out about what research is being conducted right now. By having the facts, you can empower yourself with the knowledge you might need to get someone into rehab, stop someone from using in the first place and avoid having them becoming another statistic.
The treatment industry is a vast one with many branches of care. This means there are numerous careers and jobs that are in need of being filled. What better way to show you appreciation for the treatment process than to go on to help others in need. Recovering addicts make great drug counselors or care providers because only they truly now what kind of struggle it is to overcome an addiction. Find out if a career in the treatment industry is right for you.