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4 Strategies For Avoiding Drug Relapse and Alcohol Relapse

Between 40% and 60% of all drug and alcohol addiction patients end up relapsing following treatment. Relapse is common and normal among those overcoming addiction, since staying sober often requires lots of hard work, dedication, and the implementation of many healthy lifestyle changes. During the holidays when most people tend to eat, drink, and be merry, your sobriety can be tested as you try navigating this time of year without turning to drugs and alcohol.

Not only do the holidays carry a celebratory air that encourages drinking and drug use, but for those in recovery from addiction, the holidays can stir up a multitude of negative emotions that can easily lead to relapse when left unmanaged. Loneliness, sadness, and guilt are just some negative feelings that can be difficult for recovering addicts to cope with during one of the most celebrated times of year that emphasizes the importance of friends and family.

Regardless of whether this is your first, 10th, or 20th holiday season after overcoming addiction, having a strategy in place is critical to avoiding drug relapse or alcohol relapse, and to helping you stay sober, healthy, and strong for years to come.

What is Relapse, and Why is it Dangerous?

Relapse in addiction is when people return to drug and alcohol use after having completed addiction treatment and achieved sobriety. Those in recovery can relapse for any one of several reasons such as stress, exposure to drugs and alcohol and fights with family members.

A drug or alcohol relapse can be compared to the type of relapse one might face when going on a diet to lose weight. Despite one’s efforts to lose weight and stay healthy, it can be easy to make a mistake and consume too many calories in the form of donuts and potato chips. But when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, the consequences of relapse can be much more deadly.

Relapsing can often lead to alcohol poisoning or an overdose in drug users. Those who relapse will often return to using the same amount of drugs and alcohol they used before becoming sober. Unfortunately, many times these high doses can instantly trigger an overdose or poisoning since the body is no longer tolerant or dependent on these high amounts.

Here are 4 strategies that can help you avoid drug relapse or alcohol relapse. Practice these strategies every year, or share them with a loved one in your life who needs your help and support with staying sober during the holidays.

Strategy #1: Learn How to Avoid and Handle High-Risk Situations

For a person overcoming addiction, high-risk situations are those that are most prone to triggering a relapse. Examples of possible high-risk situations are attending an event that takes place at a bar, spending time with old friends you used to party with, and facing stress at work. During the holidays, examples of high-risk situations are taking part in family traditions that involve alcohol, reuniting with estranged relatives, and shopping among large crowds for holiday gifts.

Here’s here to avoid and handle high-risk situations that can cause relapse.

Identify Your Personal High-Risk Situations

High-risk situations are also commonly known as triggers. Before you can avoid and handle any high-risk situations, you need to be able to identify them. Think about situations and events that would normally cause you to use drugs and alcohol. If you’re not exactly sure what your triggers are, work with a therapist who can help you uncover your triggers.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is commonly used in addiction treatment to help you identify negative thoughts and behaviors that would normally lead to drug and alcohol use. CBT is also used as part of relapse prevention training to help you identify high-risk situations that could lead to drug relapse. A therapist can often help you identify the environmental and emotional characteristics of your high-risk situations, and teach you how to overcome these weaknesses so you can achieve ongoing sobriety.

Call now to find treatment programs that offer CBT.

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Know About Common High-Risk Situations

Research shows that the longer a person is able to stay sober, the greater their chances of avoiding relapse. However, certain high-risk situations can threaten sobriety even in those who have been sober for many years.

Here are common high-risk situations that can lead to relapse:

  • Experiencing negative emotions such as boredom, anger, depression, anxiety, frustration, and loneliness.
  • Facing negative interpersonal situations that involve one or more people, such as family arguments.
  • Facing verbal or nonverbal pressure to use drugs and alcohol in social settings.
  • Experiencing positive emotions or situations that stimulate the need for drugs and alcohol, such as celebrations or feelings of accomplishment.

Negative emotional states are associated with the highest relapse rates, followed by negative interpersonal situations. Social pressure to use drugs and alcohol is linked to roughly 20% of relapse episodes in those overcoming addiction.

Develop Your Own Coping Responses

After you’ve identified your triggers, come up with ways to handle these situations in the future. Facing your triggers is bound to happen at some point, but it’s the way you respond to these situations that determine whether you’ll relapse. Work with your therapist on developing a series of effective coping responses you can use to avoid alcohol relapse in future situations.

CBT teaches you how to handle triggers from both a cognitive and behavioral standpoint. For instance, you can use positive self-talk to boost your confidence in high-risk situations, or demonstrate behavioral responses such as leaving a party to avoid being in the presence of drugs and alcohol. Over time, you’ll learn which coping methods work best for you at helping you stay sober.

Strategy #2: Build a Support System

A solid support system comprised of caring friends, family members, and healthcare professionals can go a long way toward helping you stay sober. These individuals can help you stay away from high-risk situations and old patterns of behavior that commonly lead to drug relapse. As soon as you go through drug detox and fully withdraw from drugs and alcohol, you can start building a support system right away with people at your treatment center.

Here’s how to build a support system after overcoming addiction.

Reconnect With Loved Ones

If addiction led to loss of relationships and strain among family members, make plans to reconnect with loved ones as part of your recovery. Family therapy is offered at most addiction treatment centers to help you repair and rebuild relationships with those most important to you. Your family can help you build and sustain a healthier living environment to promote your sobriety and help you stay on track.

Join Support Group Therapy

Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are offered at many drug detox centers to connect you with others in recovery who share similar challenges and experiences. These groups will often pair you with a sponsor who can guide you through the 12-step process, and help you stay accountable for your sobriety. Join an aftercare program at a local drug detox center that offers support group therapy, or look for local support groups in your city you can attend several times per week.

Connect with Supportive Counselors

Drug and alcohol detox centers are often staffed with supportive addiction counselors trained to guide you through overcoming addiction. These professionals can help you survive drug detox, prevent you from relapsing, and offer ongoing therapy in aftercare programs aimed at helping you stay sober in future years. If you’ve recently overcome addiction, join an aftercare program where you can have access to supportive counselors devoted to helping you stay clean.

Strategy #3: Find Alternative Ways to Manage Stress

drug relapse

Regular exercise and mindfulness practices can help you avoid relapse.

Stress is one of the leading causes of addiction, as well as a leading cause of relapse. Stress can be emotional or physical, and be caused by interpersonal conflicts, the loss of a loved one, sleep deprivation, and hunger. Look for healthier, alternative ways to manage stress that don’t involve using drugs or alcohol.

Practice these methods to reduce stress, and to stave off an alcohol or drug relapse.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise improves blood flow and circulation — both of which can boost your overall brain health. Exercise naturally balances your mood and brain chemicals to ward off anxiety and depression, and increases your brain’s production of endorphins so you feel happier and euphoric without drugs and alcohol. Do a combination of aerobic and strength training exercises on most days of the week to keep stress at bay.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of the present moment. To practice mindfulness, focus on what you’re doing and feeling at that exact moment to prevent your mind from wandering to the source and symptoms of your stress. For instance, if you just received bad news at work, try closing your eyes and using your other senses to focus on the present moment, such as the feel of clothes against your skin, or the sound of a song playing on the radio.

Eat Healthy Foods

Healthy, whole foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can give your body the physical strength and mental clarity needed to stay sober and avoid relapse. Skipping meals or eating unhealthy foods high in sugar and fat can actually induce stress, and make you feel moody, irritable, and more prone to relapsing. Stop eating processed foods, fast foods, and sugary, high-fat foods, and start eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and seeds.

Strategy #4: Practice Honesty

Addiction can lead to extreme behavioral changes that influence people to lie to and be dishonest with those they love. Learning how to be honest with yourself and with others about your recovery and the struggles you might face along the way is a major part of overcoming addiction. Practicing honesty can turn your recovery from addiction into a more fulfilling experience that benefits you, your friends, and your family.

Here’s how to practice honesty in your recovery and avoid drug relapse:

Be Open About Your Struggles

Recovering from addiction is often a lifelong journey that poses a number of challenges and road bumps along the way. If at any point you feel like you might relapse, contact a trusted family member or support group sponsor immediately. Remember that relapse is a normal part of addiction recovery, and that your support team is not there to judge, but to help you stay sober and healthy no matter what it takes.

Keep an Honesty Journal

Start a journal to keep track of all your emotions, interactions, and behaviors throughout the day. Journaling your thoughts on paper can help you see certain situations for what they really are, and can help you keep your honesty in check. Review your journal at the end of every day to identify any dishonest behavior, and work on correcting that behavior on the following day.

Understand How Dishonesty Affects Your Recovery

Dishonesty is a common relapse trigger that can influence you to revert to old dangerous behaviors — especially alcohol and drug use. Dishonesty can interfere with your treatment progress and jeopardize relationships you’ve recently repaired with friends and family after overcoming addiction. But fortunately, the more consistently you practice honesty, the easier it will become for you to be honest with yourself and everyone else indefinitely.

If you or a loved one has recently suffered an alcohol relapse or drug relapse, understand that relapse is common, and that there are nearby detox centers that can help. Most health insurance plans cover the cost of detox so you or your loved one can get free drug detox and get back on the path to lifelong sobriety as soon as possible. Many drug detox centers also offer family therapy and aftercare programs aimed at helping you avoid future relapses.

When it comes to addiction recovery, relapse is never to be viewed as a failure. If you need help overcoming addiction, call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) to speak with an experienced drug abuse counselor about your treatment options. We’ll help you find a nearby drug detox center ready to help you fight addiction and achieve improved overall health and sobriety.

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