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Relapse Prevention Strategies That Work

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Relapse prevention strategies help clients become aware of how to avoid or overcome specific triggers for substance use in their lives. These strategies are developed during drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and clients continue to use them at home. It’s even a good idea for clients to share their relapse prevention strategies with their loved ones to get additional assistance.

Relapse prevention strategies that are truly effective have been created with honesty and specific details and are carried out with dedication and a realistic approach. At Destination Hope, these strategies are created specifically for the client and their lifestyle.

Triggers for Relapse

The specific triggers for relapse will vary from person to person, but there are certain factors that tend to be universal among recovering addicts.

  • Emotional factors play a significant role in triggering relapse. Depression, anxiety, stress, frustration, boredom and other emotions can be difficult to handle, and the desire to numb painful feelings can be strong. Many recovering addicts end up using drugs or alcohol again as a coping mechanism.
  • Being around people and situations that remind clients of using can trigger cravings. It can be difficult to get together with old friends if you used to drink or use together.
  • Parties and events where people are drinking are also tough to endure, especially in the early months of recovery.

Potential Signs of Relapse

The potential signs of relapse can manifest in certain moods and behaviors that can signal a client is going down the path of relapse. Here are some potential signs:

  • Secretiveness
  • Spending time with friends or associates you’ve used with in the past or suppliers of substances
  • Spending time in places you once used or places centered on using such as wild parties
  • Moodiness, mood swings
  • Lack of proper grooming habits
  • Poor eating and sleeping habits
  • Romanticizing past times of use
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Discontinuing participation in recovery activities such as support group meetings

Implementing Relapse Prevention Strategies

Implementing relapse prevention strategies can help continue a stable and strong recovery. Once relapse prevention strategies have been defined, outlining triggers and potential signs of relapse, it’s time to come up with steps to avoid them. It’s important that the steps of the plan are as specific as possible. Further, life never stays the same so strategies should be updated as necessary to keep them relevant.

Specific Relapse Prevention Strategies That Work

General Relapse Prevention Tips

  • Find support.  Join organizations that will support your sober life. From community recovery meetings to religious organizations to family groups, there are meetings all over the world. Destination Hope also offers a comprehensive aftercare and alumni programmeeting several times each week.
  • Make New Friends. Your friends from before rehab may no longer be the best people to hang out with – it is important you find a social support group that actively supports your sobriety. Being sober doesn’t mean you can’t be social.
  • Gratitude Lists.  Keep your gratitude list close, in your wallet or in your car. Update the list of positive things in your sober life – whether it is people, animals, feelings or accomplishments.  Look at the list and remind yourself how far you have come.
  • Watch for Triggers. You have to be on guard when you get out of rehab, so be mindful to remove as many triggers as you can. If stress triggered you to drink or to do drugs in the first place, find healthy ways to remove that trigger.
  • Stay Healthy. We all feel better after eight hours of sleep.  Treat your body right when you’re in recovery, from sleeping enough to exercising and eating a healthy diet promoting proper nutrition. The better your body feels the better your emotional state and the less likely you are to relapse.
  • Stay Busy. Staying busy is a common element of successful recoveries and aftercare programs. A few positive ways to occupy time include taking up a hobby, volunteering and spending time with sober friends and family members.
  • Consider Outpatient Treatment. Outpatient programs allow you to go about your daily life and commitments but still offer reaffirmation of all the techniques and strategies from full-time inpatient treatment.
  • Consider Educating Yourself. Education not only challenges you and allows you to learn new things, it can also advance your career and financial situation. You may also consider advancement within the recovery industry.
  • Affirm your feelings and activities with a journal. It will keep you accountable and provide you with a place to write about your struggles. In today’s day and age, your relapse prevention journal can just as easily be a private blog.
  • Be Reasonable with goals. Recovery is a journey, so be reasonable with the expectations you set for yourself.  Achieve your goals incrementally – 5 days sober, 10 days sober, etc. Breaking it into smaller bites makes it easier to achieve success and ultimately those small successes will lead to a successful recovery!
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Specific Relapse Prevention Techniques for the Holidays:

An individual in recovery is in an especially delicate situation during a holiday where alcohol is often present.  Identifying parties and get togethers may be a temptation situation is the first step to preventing a relapse.

It is crucial to relapse prevention that an individual in recovery to have an exit plan if they feel the temptation is too strong. If the recovering individual finds that he or she is in a situation that is too stressful, then that person needs a safe place to go and a plan in place for how to get there.

It is also advisable to have a supportive friend or sponsor on standby to call when the urge to drink arises. Having a friend who has already been through such stressful situations has proven to be a very successful tactic. Occasionally, the triggers that cause the desire to drink are too great and it is often best to avoid those situations entirely. It may be time to find a new way to celebrate the Fourth of July in a setting where alcohol is not present.

Friends and family members of individuals in recovery should also have a plan in place. They can offer support, love and understanding to a loved one in recovery without becoming overbearing and judgmental. Try not to “babysit” someone in recovery during the party, instead, try to make the situation safe from temptation.

Why Relapse Prevention Fails

Relapse prevention strategies are not fool-proof. Following are some of the best methods for developing great relapse prevention strategies for your recovery.

  • Detailed Planning – Some relapse prevention strategies fail because they lack detailed planning. The more general the relapse prevention plan, the less effective it becomes. Details are important because these strategies are not just general concepts – these are vital life strategies used with the intention of maintaining your sobriety.
  • Personalization – The best relapse prevention strategies also need to be personalized. If the plan isn’t designed to work for you, you may not be able to successfully put it into action, which puts your sobriety at risk. 
  • Commitment to The Plan –Creating effective relapse prevention strategies requires commitment. The best strategies mean nothing if you are not willing to commit to them and to work hard on sticking to them for your sobriety. It’s even a great idea to get assistance by introducing them to your closest friends and family for a solid base of support.
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Relapse prevention means taking charge of your situation.  Relapse is common, so don’t punish yourself if you slip.  Instead, identify that you have the desire to relapse or have relapsed, no matter how big or small, and take charge.  Call your counselor, therapist or treatment center.  Call a meeting leader, sponsor or someone who can help you get back on track.  No matter what you’ve done in the past, you are worth it and you are stronger than your disease!

If you or someone you love is suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse, substance addiction or any other type of addiction, please contact us today.  Our addiction treatment counselors can help you deal with physical, emotional and psychological consequences of drug and alcohol abuse.  A substance abuse treatment program is effective, safe and has helped many men reclaim their lives. Destination Hope is a full service drug, alcohol and dual diagnosis treatment facility in Florida for men suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues.

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