How to Reduce Relapse Risks

Relapse Workshop: Reducing Relapse Risk

Estimated watch time: 4 mins 13 secs


This video guide walks you through some of the steps you can take to reduce your relapse risk, including building a support system. Your support system can be loved ones, your 12-step group or anyone you feel comfortable with. Reducing relapse risk is reliant on being prepared and strategic in how you approach and cope with triggering situations.

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There are lessons accompanying each video that you can access through our recovery portal, Swell or you can download, here. (Lesson 4)

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Relapse Workshop: Reducing Relapse Risk

This lesson is about reducing relapse risk.

So in order to reduce your relapse risk, you need to build a support system. And that might include a treatment team, if you’re in a treatment center. If you’re not in a treatment center, you can build your own out of some of the following options.

You might want to have a therapist. You might want a sponsor which you can find at a 12-step meeting. You might want to rely on a partner. Perhaps your partner is somebody that’s supportive to your recovery. Friends who are supportive to your recovery. And you may need to go to 12-step meetings or Smart Recovery meetings.

And you need to be able to identify your relapse triggers. Those people, places and things that make it more likely that you’re going to relapse. You want to avoid situations where drugs and alcohol may be present. In the beginning in particular, you want to create an environment that’s as safe as possible for you. So the less frequently you expose yourself to drugs or alcohol, the more likely it is that you’re not going to reach for it in a difficult moment.

So if you can not avoid a triggering situation, you want to be strategic. You’d want to go to that event with a sober friend or have your own car. You might want to arrive late and leave early. And you want to think ahead of time and decide how you’re going to handle cravings if they hit.

Some things that you can do is to keep resources handy. Some people like to carry a little note card of their coping skills lists so that they can easily refer to them. You might write down on it some of the distraction strategies that you like. For example, you can count backwards from one hundred down to one. You might want to list animals that start with each letter of the alphabet, starting with A’s, all the animals you can think of. And then all the B animals you can think of. Keep in mind that you’re trying to ride out an urge which tends to last 15 to 20 minutes.

You can take five slow, deep breaths. If you breathe in on a count of six, and breathe out on a count of eight, five times, it will take the edge off what you’re feeling emotionally. You can also do five, four, three, two, one things you can see and things you can hear. Look around the room. Identify five things you see and then five things you hear. And if you’re not feeling calmer, then do four. You want to make sure you pick four different things you see and four different things you hear and keep going through three, two and one. The idea is just to take your mind off of using and think of something else.

You’ll also want to have phone numbers of support team members. Make sure these are put in your favorites so that you’re able to easily reach out to a friend if you need.

You also find it helpful to establish a daily recovery-focused practice, so that might be anything at all that you think helps you with your recovery program. But you want to make sure you stay focused on recovery every day. And that could be by using daily meditation. You might go to group therapy. You might choose to go to 12 step meetings. You might do some yoga or get involved in some community activities or some sort of spiritual practice. Perhaps there’s a church or organization that you like to be involved in. Or prayer or perhaps spirituality means something different to you. And it doesn’t need to be the same thing every day. You can use a combination of these or other things that will help you be focused on your recovery on a daily basis as long as you’re connecting the two things to each other.

So in our next lesson we’re going to talk about common addictive behaviors.

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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.