Relapse Prevention ManualEvery year, a small fraction of those who suffer from substance abuse and addiction get help. In 2012, a mere 2.5 million people sought professional treatment out of the 23.1 million who needed it, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. When addicts enter rehab, they do so knowing that it isn’t a cure. Relapse is a reality for a large portion of those who seek treatment, and even more for those who try to quit on their own. Somewhere around 40-60 percent of recovering addicts will relapse within the first year following treatment, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Who Is at Risk?If you go to rehab expecting someone to fix you, you’re already setting yourself up for relapse later on. Many who start treatment don’t finish it, most often due to their overwhelming cravings that cause them to leave treatment in search of their next fix. Everyday Health notes 60 percent of people who enter outpatient treatment drop out of it early. This is on top of the millions who never seek help. Individuals who suffer from mental illness in addition to their substance use disorder require a combined treatment approach. If they don’t get it, their chances of relapse are greatly intensified. Leaving treatment without learning quality coping skills to help manage symptoms of mental illness is dangerous for the recovery addict. He will likely go home and find himself confronted with the same uncomfortable feelings and thoughts that led him to substance abuse in the first place.
Many who are mentally ill choose drugs and alcohol as a method of self-medication when it comes to illnesses like bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes that half of those who suffer from severe mental illness are also substance abusers. Stress is a major player in relapse. This is why so many treatment centers are fixated on programs that incorporate practices that combat stress. Mindfulness practices proved successful in one study where only 9 percent of participants practicing mindfulness had relapsed after one year, compared to 14 percent of 12-step program participants and 17 percent of those in a traditional relapse-prevention program, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Other stress-reducing practices include exercise, adventure therapy, and yoga. Remember, recovering from addiction requires more than just getting clean; you have to change the life you’re living if you want to be capable to carrying on with a new one.
Preventing a Return to Substance AbuseRelapse brings with it substantial physical risks. Returning to drugs or alcohol after a period of being clean has proven to be fatal for many addicts. As the body’s tolerance to drugs and alcohol has been lowered during the period of recovery, the patient may return to her previous dosage when she relapses. This can easily result in an overdose. Thankfully, there are various steps one can take to prevent a relapse.
- Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is an effective method of treating a variety of behavioral dysfunctions and disorders. It has been used for years in the management of mood disorders like bipolar disorder. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported on one study that noted 60.7 percent of people diagnosed with the type I variant of the disorder suffered from a substance use disorder at some point in their lives, too. In treating addiction specifically and safeguarding against relapse, CBT can be used to instill coping skills that may prove to be helpful when you are confronted with the opportunity to fall off the wagon.
- Reduce stress. Stress is a huge predictor of relapse and a frequent factor that addicts report as being a motivator behind their substance abuse. Limiting stress in your life may be easier said than done. A quality treatment program won’t make promises of a different life or environment when you leave rehab. Instead, it will prepare you to re-enter the same life you left as a changed person who is capable of coping with whatever life throws at you.Contrary to popular belief, therapy isn’t the only avenue to learning coping skills. According to the Journal of Complementary Therapies in Medicine, more people are taking advantage of alternative stress relievers every day, such as yoga, which was shown to decrease levels of cortisol — a stress hormone — in 31 percent of people compared to those who only engaged in traditional exercise. Finding various avenues for stress reduction can help to prevent relapse and improve overall quality of life.
- Form healthy friendships. This step can’t be stressed enough. Too often, addicts come to rehab, get clean, and then head home and try to return to their same friendships and social circles. If you think you can go back to hanging out with alcoholics and addicts and refrain from joining in, you’re wrong. You must avoid contact with those kinds of temptations. It isn’t merely the struggle of resisting the substance itself, but the acts that go along with it. The temptation to use grows stronger when it feels like old times and seems like you have no one else to turn to. Thus, it’s time to make new friends.Remember that your old buddies likely prefer the old you. Steer clear of anyone who abuses drugs or alcohol; they are controlled by their substance abuse as you once were and are not looking out for your best interests. Your family members may be good sources of support as well as the friends you made in treatment. You can also meet new, supportive friends via 12-step groups, support groups, and recreational activities.
- Address mental health issues. Mental health disorders affect some 42.5 million people in the United States, per the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. Many people are suffering from a mental health issue and don’t know it. When you’re choosing a rehab facility, opt for one that is staffed with competent and licensed psychology professionals that can screen for mental illness.Treating addiction and failing to treat mental illness is a recipe for disaster. Without learning how to handle your illness and getting the required medicated treatment, if necessary, you are likely to leave rehab ill-equipped for handling the symptoms that arise that may make you feel more inclined to use again in effort to dampen those symptoms. Among individuals with a mental health disorder, 29 percent are drug or alcohol abusers, according to Helpguide.
- Participate in support groups. Support groups have long been held as a helpful and effective method of continued treatment for addicts. Attending meetings regularly can keep you focused on your recovery.
- Avoid triggering situations. Sometimes it’s nothing more than watching a movie in which someone is getting high or drunk. Perhaps you pass by an old friend’s place on the way home one day, and you can’t help but recall the memories you have of using with them. Maybe it’s a certain bar that you used to go to regularly. When possible, avoid these triggering situations. Take a different route home that doesn’t involve passing by your old friend’s place or the bar. Choose entertainment that doesn’t feature substance use.In treatment, you’ll learn to recognize triggering situations and how to avoid them. Sometimes, these situations are unavoidable, and you’ll learn how to deal with those instances as well.
- Keep busy. Staying busy sounds pretty easy, but for many addicts who are returning to a life of unemployment and burned bridges, it can be trying. According to The Fix, one in six unemployed individuals abuse drugs or alcohol. It’s important to fill your time with healthy, productive activities so you aren’t tempted to fill it with drugs and alcohol again.Going to the gym, making amends with family members you may have hurt in the past, and socializing with new, sober friends are all great ways to fill the time. Take up a new healthy hobby, like cooking, writing, or running. Consider joining sober activity groups where others are looking to have fun in a sober environment.