Substance abuse is a very, very slippery slope. Whether it begins due to curiosity about recreational intoxication or an individual takes it upon him or herself to misuse prescription medication, substance abuse typically begins with the individual in full control of his or her actions, willfully pursuing such dangerous behaviors. Over time, however, substance abuse becomes less a choice and more a compulsion. As substance abusers increase the frequency of their recreational intoxication, they begin needing more and more of the substances in order to achieve the desired effects; meanwhile, the body is becoming dependent on those substances in order to perform even basic functions. In particular, the brain begins needing alcohol and/or drugs as a source of dopamine, serotonin, and other neurochemicals, causing painful withdrawal in the absence of these substances.
Treatment for alcohol and drug addiction means helping individuals overcome both the physical as well as the psychological dependencies that are formed to chemical substances. As such, a core component of an effective addiction treatment program is counseling and psychotherapy, helping individuals to overcome the mental and emotional factors that might have led to the development of an addiction in the first place. Moreover, one of the most essential goals of addiction treatment is to prevent the chance of relapse, which involves arming those in recovery with the skills and strategies that will help them to sustain long-term sobriety. The following are five basic strategies that help individuals be successful in recovery through the prevention of relapse.
1: Learning to Cope with Stress and Hardship
Over the course of active addiction, individuals cope with negative emotions, hardships, and stress by getting intoxicated. Consequently, addicts can go for years or even decades without experiencing the full range of human emotion, instead numbing themselves through substance abuse. When individuals begin the journey of recovery, they often experience a flood of emotion early in the process, which can be jarring. However, over the course of treatment these individuals learn an important relapse prevention strategy, which is to cope with the stress and hardships that people tend to experience as a natural and expected part of life. Much of healthy coping involves finding a constructive or non-harmful way of expressing one’s emotions, which includes being able to talk about them with others as a way of venting. It’s also important for individuals to learn how to relax themselves with exercises like meditation, deep breathing, and Buddhist mindfulness.
2: Thorough Understanding of the Recovery Process
There are many misconceptions about recovery. Prior to beginning the process themselves, many believe that recovery is a task that one begins and finishes like any other task. However, recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is a lifelong process that requires ongoing effort and strength of conviction. As part of one’s rehabilitation, it’s important to learn about what recovery means and how an addict proceeds through varying stages of rehabilitation in order to form accurate expectations for the process. Moreover, this allows individuals to identify the aspects of their lives or behaviors that might make them especially susceptible to a relapse so that the appropriate measures can be taken to fortify one’s sobriety.
3: Being Able to Identify High-Risk Situations
Achieving sobriety is an accomplishment worthy of pride and praise. However, without taking the proper precautions sobriety can quickly and easily be wasted. Upon completing treatment and returning to the community, much of an individual’s potential success in recovery will depend on his or her ability to remove toxic influences from one’s life. This could include disconnecting with peers who still use and abuse chemical substances, keeping a distance from places that inspire alcohol or drug use, and other such possible triggers. An important part of relapse prevention is helping individuals learn to identify a variety of high-risk situations that can put one’s recovery at risk.
4: Developing a Healthy Routine
When an individual is in the throes of active addiction, he or she lives quite a different lifestyle than someone who is not addicted to alcohol or drugs. In particular, an addict’s daily routine revolves around seeking and consuming one’s substance of choice with many other aspects of life falling by the wayside. An important relapse prevention strategy will teach individuals in recovery how to regain their health and independence by developing a healthy, productive daily routine. This encourages individuals to maintain self-care and hygiene, regain a semblance of personal productivity and achievement, and will help to ease the transition back into a sober lifestyle. As part of the development of a healthy daily routine, those in recovery will learn about things like nutrition, physical exercise, maintaining a clean home, and making sure one’s medical needs are met.
5: Learning How to Handle Urges and Cravings
Everyone who has either been an addict in the past or is currently in the throes of addiction will know what it’s like to experience cravings for alcohol or drugs. In some instances, a craving can occur as a result of a trigger. Common triggers for cravings are often feelings or situations in which an individual would have previously consumed a chemical substance, including being in particular places or with certain people. Alternately, triggers can be feelings, such as exhaustion, dealing with anger or impatience, feelings of sadness or frustration. However, cravings and urges to use can occur with no apparent provocation or trigger. Whether a craving has been provoked or unprovoked, it’s crucial for those in recovery to be able to overcome cravings and urges in order to maintain one’s recovery. In fact, this is typically considered the most important relapse prevention strategies of them all. Resisting cravings can be done in a number of ways, but some of the most common techniques include talking to someone—such as a sponsor, therapist, or even a close friend—or busying oneself with a task that requires focus; additionally, taking a walk is also recommended in the event of a craving. Meditation and mindfulness exercises have recently become a popular strategy for resisting urges as well.
Forge the Path to Sobriety by Beginning Your Recovery Journey Today
Although the disease of addiction cannot currently be cured, alcohol and drug addiction can surely be overcome. If you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependency and would like to learn about treatment and relapse prevention, call Recovery Hub today at 888-220-4352. We have a team of recovery specialists available to help individuals find the programs and treatments that best address their recovery needs and allow them to return to lives of sobriety, health, and fulfillment. A better life is only one phone call away.