You’ve completed an inpatient drug rehab program. Congratulations! Your recovery, however is still a work in progress. This is something that is important to remember, especially as you face triggers or even blatant invitations into the life of addiction over time. Your key to staying on the path of recovery is having adequate education and tools for addiction relapse prevention. Choosing a reputable inpatient rehab program should help to ensure you have the tools and skills you will need to say, “no,” continually, but in the event that you need a “reset” or reminder, we have put together a short guide to help you prevent relapsing into addiction.
Get Help from Others
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s worth repeating. Seek the help of others when you are facing a situation of relapse. The key is to get help as soon as you can. Don’t wait until you are staring at a drink at the bar if you can help it. There are support systems that can be set up to help you before you even get that far. Support groups are a fantastic resource, but if you are between meetings and feeling the urge or craving to drink or use, having a sober friend or sponsor that you are able to call is going to be key for your recovery. This person can be there for you (emotionally if not physically) when you are in need. If you don’t have someone in your life when you are finished with rehab, ask your rehab program if they can pair you with someone that you can rely on in the heat of the moment. There may be a number you can call to speak with an addiction counselor, or they may have other arrangements that can help you stay sober. Many inpatient rehabs include specific relapse prevention training as a part of their inpatient program, or even on an outpatient basis.
Make a List of Triggers
While it’s impossible to know each and every situation that may create the urge to drink or use, it’s important to have a list of known triggers that you will encounter. By having this list, you can work on what you can do to not only avoid the triggers (if possible) but also have a plan on how to deal with them should you encounter them.
We like to classify triggers as situational and emotional. Situational triggers are environments where you previously drank or used, such as bars or clubs, the homes of other addicts (or drug dealers), and places and people that you used to imbibe with. Situational triggers are also financial or employment changes, social pressures, relationship problems, health issues, and/or the loss of a friend or loved one. Emotional triggers are just that – feelings of emotion. Common emotional triggers for recovering addicts are feelings of anger, sadness, jealousy, loneliness, boredom, depression, grief, hate, or the other end of the spectrum happiness or euphoria. It’s important to recognize if a particular emotional state will lead you to drinking either for an escape or celebration, or anywhere in between. If you know that in the past you turned to drugs or alcohol when you were extremely sad, it’s important to make note that the next time you are feeling sad that you seek another outlet.
In addition, it’s important to make sure that you are eating well, getting adequate sleep and exercising regularly. This will help to reduce mood swings, and will provide strength to deal with stressful situations.
Have a Plan and Keep Your Goals in Sight
Avoidance works for certain situations, but isn’t the answer to living the rest of your life post-rehab. At a certain point, you are going to face a trigger or craving, whether you like it or not. When this happens, it’s important to have a plan in place. An easy way to remember what to do (or not have an excuse to forget what to do) is to have a list in your phone or carry a note card with information specific for your relapse prevention plan.
This list should include a list of people you can rely on to help talk you out of drinking or using. It should also include a list of things you can do when a craving hits. This can serve as a reference for you when all you want to do is give into that craving, but can remind you of other healthy activities to distract your mind and body until that craving subsides. Some examples of activities are taking a walk, cooking a meal, and/or calling a sober friend. It’s also important to include a list of meetings by day/location. You can do this by adding a bookmark to your phone’s internet browser with a list of meetings. You can also keep a printed copy in your pocket or car. It also may be helpful to keep a list of goals. Seeing your goal on paper may help for you to visualize yourself as successful instead of falling into addiction relapse.
If You Fall, You CAN Get Back Up
If you do relapse, reach out to someone immediately. So often a person will relapse once only to feel as though they may as well continue using since they had a bump in their road to recovery. This doesn’t have to be the case. If you have found yourself in a relapse situation, contact a drug counselor today, especially if you are in or around California. The longer you continue in that relapse pattern, the harder it will be to get clean, this time for good.