Many people believe that once you leave rehab, your addiction is cured. This is a widely accepted belief, but it is false. Addiction is a chronic disease that can never be fully cured. Instead, it must be continually treated and recovering addicts must learn strategies for preventing relapse and coping with triggers down the road.
In fact, according to the American Addiction Centers, the relapse rate after treatment is 40-60%. Finding coping mechanisms that work for each individual person will help reduce the chance of relapse in the long run. By learning these strategies, you can maintain lifelong sobriety and help others in recovery.
What Is Relapse?
Relapse is going back to drug or alcohol use or abuse after an extended period of abstinence from the addiction. The definition is different for everyone, but you know when you have crossed the line from recovery back into using. Crossing that line means you have relapsed.
Common Triggers for Relapse
There are multiple things in life that may trigger someone while in recovery. While the situation may differ from individual to individual, it is important to recognize general triggers, to help you cope with them as they arise in life.
This acronym is extremely helpful for those in recovery because it covers the main bases that may trigger someone and cause them to relapse. HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. By being aware of these areas of your life and maintaining them, you are less likely to relapse. This could mean having a consistent daily schedule that has you getting enough sleep, planning proper meals with enough nutrients, and going to your follow up appointments or support groups.
Stress is often referred to as the number one trigger for relapse in addiction recovery. Anything can become a source of stress, and the causes are different for every individual. Knowing how to manage stress can help combat its effects on you mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and physically.
Co-occurring illnesses with addiction can add to one’s stress and the ability to remain positive in recovery. Depression and anxiety are the most common mental disorders associated with addiction, but others may be present as well. Physical illness puts stress on your body, which can lead to possible relapse.
Any medications used to treat mental or physical concerns should be monitored by your doctor if you are recovering from addiction. Always be open and honest with your doctor to keep your recovery on track.
It is understandable if you are hesitant about reaching out to others after addiction treatment. You may have had to drop old friends because of their usage, and now you have to start over by making sober friends. On the other hand, you may feel embarrassed or left out of the social scene because you went to treatment. However, isolating yourself can lead to feelings of loneliness. This can cause you to rationalize using drugs or alcohol to cope with what you’re experiencing.
Being in Places Where Drugs and Alcohol Are Available
When you put yourself in a situation where addictive substances are available, you are putting your sobriety at risk. No matter how strong you feel in your recovery, it is never a good idea to be around drugs or alcohol. Even the smell can trigger you into relapsing. The cravings can be incredibly strong in these situations.
Strategies for Preventing Relapse
Exercise is one of the best relapse prevention methods. This is because the physical stress exercise puts on your body can relieve mental stress. Dopamine is released when you exercise, which is the feel-good hormone that lifts your mood and acts as a natural painkiller. Exercise also transforms your body over time, boosting your self-esteem. Ultimately, filling your free time with exercise can keep you distracted from addiction and in good spirits in recovery.
Eating a Well-Balanced Diet
Often, those struggling with addiction are not eating the best. This means their bodies are not getting the proper nutrients needed to give them the energy and mood they need for recovery. Eating a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains allow your body to function properly and give you the motivation to continue on. Stress is reduced, your sleep will be better, and cravings are decreased.
Getting Enough Sleep
Most individuals in addiction recovery are most likely not getting enough sleep. This is often due to withdrawal, causing sleep disturbances. Having a strict sleep schedule, including on the weekends, can ensure you are getting enough sleep to properly go through recovery. Exercising and establishing a proper diet can help enhance your sleep as well.
Filling Free Time
One trigger in addiction recovery that many are unaware of is having too much free time. Boredom is one of the most common triggers in recovery because it can cause thoughts to wander to drugs and alcohol. When you begin thinking of these things, it is best to distract yourself with hobbies you enjoy. Some possible activities could be running, taking a bath, learning a language, meditating, or listening to music. It is vital to find sober activities you enjoy to fill your time.
You should never go through recovery alone. Making sober friends and building a support network can be life-saving in situations where the cravings or triggers are intense. Have someone you can call when you need to hold yourself accountable and need some encouragement.
You can make sober friends at support groups and other sober activities you may be interested in. The most important thing to remember is there are other people that understand what you are going through. Reach out to family and friends when you need help and help others whenever you can help them.
Addiction recovery is a long and difficult process. It requires you to make a commitment every single day because addiction is chronic and easy to slip back into. Triggers can be hard to fight against. However, knowing the proper coping strategies can keep your recovery on track and help you maintain long term sobriety. For more information on coping with triggers in addiction recovery, contact Northstar Transitions at (303) 558-6400.