Relapse Prevention Planning
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Without intentional follow-up care, there is a chance you could return to misusing drugs or alcohol — a condition known as relapse. While this prospect is frightening, “relapse prevention” is possible, particularly when you learn to recognize the early signs. Intervening early can help you protect your recovery and pave the way for lasting sobriety.
Ways to Recognize Relapse
Relapse happens gradually. The key is knowing how to recognize the various components of relapse: emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical.
Unhealthy behaviors can ease you into denial of the risks of taking a drink or smoking some marijuana, leading to emotional relapse. You may be setting yourself up for emotional relapse if you are doing one of more of the following:
- Eating poorly
- Not exercising
- Neglecting good sleep hygiene
- Keeping emotions bottled up tight
- Spending most of your time alone—you might begin to avoid sharing at or even attending your regular 12-Step meetings
For those engaged in a 12-Step program, they may also notice that they begin to feel disconnected and empty. Signs of spiritual relapse include:
- Avoiding self-reflection, prayer, or meditation
- Being dishonest with yourself or others, such as a sponsor or mentor
- Spending more time “in your head” and less time helping others
- Feeling resentment towards your higher power
As you begin to slip into a state of emotional or spiritual disconnection, you may begin to experience an increase in unhealthy thought patterns. You may begin to obsess about using drugs or alcohol. Signs of mental relapse include:
- Obsession with the idea that you can “control and enjoy” your drinking and using
- Telling yourself that you didn’t really have a problem or that “it wasn’t that bad”
- Romanticizing the use of substances through pleasant memories
- Glamourizing your past use
These thought patterns lead to lying to yourself and others, deal-making, rationalizing how you can control your use, and beginning to look for opportunities and plan out ways to use substances.
Physical relapse is the final stage of relapse. At this point, you succumb to the idea that you can drink or use and physically ingest the substance. You may take one sip or one pill and justify the behavior. Soon, just one leads to many more, and before you realize it, you are caught physically in the cycle of abuse you worked so hard to avoid.
Relapse Prevention Tools
Cognitive therapy and mind-body relaxation techniques, like we utilize at Origins Counseling, can help address all these types of relapses. You will learn to recognize negative thinking patterns and hone the healthy coping skills best for you. With the proper tools, you’ll prepare yourself to withstand the dangers of relapse.
Learning practical ways to ground yourself in the present moment through meditation minimizes negative thinking about the past and constantly worrying about the future. Mind-body relaxation, such as controlled breathing and visualization techniques, are critical to self-care and learning to be kind to yourself.
The 12-Steps and Relapse Prevention Plan
Participation in 12-Step programming can be especially helpful in combating the black-and-white or all-or-none type of thinking common with addiction. Awfulizing or making everything that happens into a catastrophe leads to more anxiety and self-doubt. Resentment, stress, and depression will quickly follow if you bottle negative emotions up inside rather than finding a safe family member, friend, or recovery alum you can talk to honestly.
Collaboration and active participation in 12-Step groups are vital to relapse prevention and your success with lifelong recovery. Honesty with yourself and others, willingness to help others, regular contact with other alcoholics or addicts, and celebrating personal milestones can all reinforce your recovery and prevent relapse.
Your Origins Counseling therapist will help you locate the best 12-Step group options for your age and stage of life.
Relapse Does Not Mean Failure
If you find yourself trading one addiction for another or abandoning healthy routines altogether for higher-risk situations, don’t wait until the relapse occurs.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that relapse can be part of the recovery process for some individuals. Rates of relapse for drug and alcohol substance misuse can be like a physical relapse of other chronic diseases. And just like you would tell your doctor immediately if some aspect of your health was failing, it is imperative to tell your therapist at Origins Counseling that you are struggling with signs of relapse.
Continuing Care is Key
Your Origins Counseling therapist will begin working with you on relapse prevention on day one of your outpatient sessions. Together, you will formulate a relapse prevention plan to help you stay sober upon discharge. For those with a substance use disorder, this plan often includes some form of 12-Step participation.
Because relapses can happen almost immediately, after a few months or years, no one is immune without a support system. Consistent professional therapy and healthy activities will reduce your chances of relapse. Don’t fall into the false assurance that your problems are 100% solved just because you complete treatment and may feel entirely safe from relapse.
Always keep your guard and stay in tune with your emotional, mental, and physical health.