Due to the profound and varied effects of alcohol and drug addiction, recovery requires quite a breadth of treatments in order to address each of the disease’s symptoms. In addition to the physical health effects, there are many behavioral, social, circumstantial, and even spiritual components to the disease of addiction, causing deterioration to individuals’ lives in virtually uncountable ways. In the several inpatient and outpatient treatment programs that are available, individuals receive counseling and psychotherapy, group and family counseling sessions, addiction education, life-skills sessions, are a number of alternative or holistic treatments that are intended to teach a variety of relapse prevention skills and strategies.
Relapse prevention is arguably one of the essential parts of an addiction treatment program. In the short-term, it helps to recover addicts to readjust to the sober lifestyle while arming them with the skills needed to prolong or sustain newfound recovery for the long-term. Since the cause of a relapse can be emotional, physical, or even due to external stimuli, there are many different skills or strategies that can help individuals in recovery to minimize the chance of relapse occurring in a variety of situations. The following are seven of the most important, essential relapse prevention techniques and strategies that individuals learn over the course of alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
1. Dealing with Stress and Anxiety
It’s been found that a major source of relapse tends to be the experience of stress and anxiety. Individuals who are still early in their recovery can often feel overconfident in their newfound sobriety, which can leave them unprepared for circumstances that may test their resolve. As such, an important component of relapse prevention is learning how to handle stress and situations in which one is experiencing increased anxiety. Many treatment programs incorporate holistic treatments for the purpose of teaching individuals a variety of ways to relax, whether through massage therapy, guided meditation and yoga, acupuncture, or even deep breathing exercises. Being able to overcome stress and anxiety by employing a variety of techniques to calm or relax oneself is essential to the longevity of recovery.
2. Practicing Routine Self-Care
Over the course of active alcohol or drug addiction, individuals tend to let many of even their most basic needs fall by this wayside, which is why many addicts tend to appear unkempt and poorly maintained. While in recovery, addicts learn how to take care of themselves again, which includes addressing physical as well as psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. By meeting one’s needs on a routine, daily basis, individuals can minimize the chances and frequencies of cravings, which will have the effect of also minimizing the possibility of a relapse occurring. This includes maintaining physical wellness through exercise, ensuring adequate nourishment through nutrition, getting plenty of sleep, maintaining personal hygiene and cleanliness, and so on.
3. Focus on Negative Consequences of Alcohol or Drug Use
It’s been found that many of the psychological urges that individuals experience are the result of things like nostalgia or glamorizing one’s past experiences while in active substance abuse, renewing friendships with cohorts who still abuse alcohol and/or drugs, and thinking about using. In each of these situations, the individual is essentially talking him or herself into relapsing. However, focusing on past negative experiences and the potential negative consequences of continued abuse of alcohol or drugs can be an effective way of deterring an individual in recovery from relapse. Things like throwing away time spent in recovery, potential criminal behavior, and putting one’s health or even life in jeopardy are effective in minimizing the possibility of a relapse.
4. Communication and Cravings to Use
When in recovery, individuals are encouraged to finds a twelve-step support group that’s local to them and find a recovery, sponsor. Sponsors help new members work the Twelve Steps and afford them an on-call resource with whom individuals who are still finding their feet in recovery can discuss things like cravings, stressful circumstances, and a variety of other speed bumps in the road to long-term sobriety. However, whether it’s with a sponsor or a non-addicted friend or loved one, it’s important to learn healthy, empathic communication skills with which an individual in recovery can share their thoughts and feelings. Being able to express the difficulties or cravings that one is experiencing in recovery can alleviate these situations and deter the possibility of a relapse.
5. Learning to Distract Oneself
According to research, cravings most often last between 15 and 30 minutes or perhaps even less. Although this can seem like an eternity when you’re actually experiencing the craving, it’s a relatively short amount of time. As such, distraction is an invaluable resource to those in recovery. There are many ways to distract oneself, whether it’s watching something on television, putting on headphones and listening to music, reading a book, or perhaps something more productive and constructive like fixing something in need of fixing, pruning one’s garden, repainting a room, and so on. Being able to distract oneself during times of cravings is helpful because oftentimes by the time one has finished with the task used for a distraction, the craving has passed and the individual has successfully prevented a relapse.
6. Take Time to Pamper Oneself
Similar to using a distraction to prevent relapse, being able to treat oneself with pampering instead of with alcohol or drugs can be instrumental in the longevity of one’s sobriety. If finances allow, women might enjoy a trip to the salon, spa, or mall while men might enjoy a round of golf or tickets to a sporting event. There are many ways to treat oneself, which can serve as a preemptive reward for avoiding alcohol and drugs.
7. Attend a Support Group Session
It’s often suggested to individuals at all stages of recovery for individuals to attend group sessions of some sort when one’s conviction in sobriety is wavering or when experiencing cravings to use. Talking about one’s cravings openly with others can help to liberate the feelings in a similar way to treating them with an actual relapse. Moreover, attending a support group can help to reinstall the one’s determination to remain sober by receiving encouragement and advice from others who have experienced or are going through many of the same things.
If you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependency and would like to learn more about relapse prevention or addiction treatment programs, call Recovery Hub today at 888-220-4352. Our addiction specialists are available to help those in need find the treatments that address their specific recovery needs and deliver them to lives of health, wellness, and sobriety