Relapse is not inevitable. There is no definitive science supporting the idea that I often hear in recovery circles that relapse is inevitable. It’s just not true. Or at least it doesn’t have to be.
It’s true that addiction is a crippling disease. I liken it to other complex disease symptoms like diabetes. As a diabetic, I know that there are measurable steps I must take in order to maintain healthy glucose numbers. But I also know that I can do everything in my power, and I will not “cure” diabetes. What I can do is treat the problem, ask for support, and maintain a commitment to taking care of my overall health and well-being.
Taking care of your addiction treatment and recovery is what you have to do. Relapse is not required. Yes, you have to stay mindful of triggers or slippery slopes that can lead you down the rabbit hole of addiction but don’t absorb the fallacy that you won’t stay sober long-term.
Fortunately, there are effective techniques for relapse prevention that might assist you in keeping control.
But before moving on to that, first, let's understand the triggers for relapse.
What Triggers Relapse?
There is no denying that every individual is different; therefore, what may trigger one person does not necessarily mean it will trigger another.
The following are a few of the most common factors that act as triggers for relapse.
Particular Events or Gatherings
Not all events and gatherings can be bad for you.
However, those specific events, for example, where people are drinking, may trigger a relapse. If you are a sex addict in recovery, and sex workers are on your bottom line behavior, you may want to avoid those areas of town you used to frequent. If you are a gambler in recovery, it’s best to skip the offer to play poker on the weekend.
While it is important not to attend events where relapse can be triggered, it is vital for you to socialize and make good connections. Substance addiction and behavior addictions thrive in isolation.
You may have the experience of feeling alone in a room full of people. Trauma, fear, and shame prevent you from leaning in and getting connected to a community of support. Ask for support from your therapist and those in recovery circles for advice on broadening your community.
Stress & Anxiety
Undoubtedly, it is challenging to handle situations where you are highly stressed and in extreme anxiety. Stress and anxiety can affect your mental, physical, spiritual, and well-being. I can’t tell you that you’ll never have stress or anxiety in your life, but there are some proven strategies to help decrease your symptoms.
Effective Relapse Prevention Techniques
Because it increases oxygen levels and induces calm, deep breathing is beneficial for the body and mind. You can perform this simple yet amazing technique anywhere you like without anyone noticing. Just take four deep breaths, hold them for four seconds, and then exhale.
I highly recommended a deep breathing exercise called a “physiological sigh.” You take two deep inhales through your nose and a long exhale out your mouth.
Build a Support Network
When you lack a support network that can motivate you and help you progress, it becomes much easier to return to destructive addictions. Therefore, you need to build a support network that can help and hold you accountable whenever you feel low or triggered.
The support network can be fellows from your 12-step recovery program, colleagues with whom you share similar interests, old friends who understand your current situation and who won’t judge you. You may also consider finding new activities on Meetup.com. New places and faces can support you as you move out of isolation.
This is one of the most effective ways of preventing relapse. Keep yourself busy and engage in productive activities, such as volunteering or taking up a hobby. You can also join a gym or a local sports team which would keep you busy in case you feel triggered.
Other busy activities might include completing a household project, gardening, walking your dog regularly, or sitting down with a coloring book.
Use a Journal
Journaling has many purposes, including preventing relapse.
Utilize your journal to keep account of your feelings, the things that urge you to go back to your addictions, and the exciting activities that help you stay busy.
Writing in a journal is a wonderful method to think back on your past, evaluate your objectives, and create a strategy for pursuing your goals while you are recovering from process addictions.
No doubt, preventing relapse is quite an arduous task, especially when you are in early recovery. However, it is doable, and you can also prevent it no matter how challenging the situation is.
All you have to do is to believe in yourself, remind yourself why you want to arrest the addictive behavior, and then simply follow the aforementioned techniques
Take good care.
--D.J. Burr, LMHC
This entire website is about me, my therapist practice, and my journey of being a healing professional.