Everyone in recovery faces the temptation of backsliding into unhealthy behaviors. Relapse can be incredibly dangerous for individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 40-60% of individuals diagnosed with SUD will experience relapse.
At Twilight Recovery Center, we believe that every guest has the potential to achieve long-term recovery without relapsing. The potential for relapse should be acknowledged, prepared for, and overcome. However, we understand that no one is perfect, and we will never judge anyone who needs additional support to maintain sobriety.
Risk Factors for Relapse
The risk factors for relapse will vary from person to person and can include:
- Co-occurring mental or physical disorders
- Lack of support
- Toxic home environment
- History of relapse
- Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or distressing event
- Chronic stress
Relapse has three distinct stages. Any of them could re-trigger substance abuse. You can experience one or all of the following during treatment and long-term recovery:
Emotional Relapse: This stage involves an emotional trigger to re-engage with substances.
Mental Relapse: During a mental relapse, you may talk yourself into believing substance use isn’t as dangerous as it is and may feel comfortable re-engaging.
Physical Relapse: Accepting the idea of relapse and physically re-engaging with substances.
Managing Stress and Other Risk Factors
Red flags are often related to overwhelming feelings like anger, depression, anxiety, and stress. You can manage risk factors. Use the tools you learn in individual and group therapy. A few common ways people manage their red flags include:
- Mindfulness-based techniques
- Relaxation and breathing exercises
- Speaking with loved ones about their problems
- Confiding in a mentor or sponsor
You and your therapist can work together. We’ll find activities and coping mechanisms that lower your stress and keep you feeling motivated and positive. For some people, prescription medications like antidepressants can provide relief from more severe symptoms and decrease the risk that red flags will trigger a relapse.
Recognizing the Signs of a Relapse
Red flags work as warnings to help you recognize the signs of potential imminent relapse. You can use them to track your recovery progress. Determine when you might need additional support, including:
- More frequent self-help meetings
- Physical or verbal check-ins with members of your support system
- More frequent individual therapy sessions
- Additional daily self-care
Using the resources and tools you have available will decrease your risk of relapse and help you maintain emotional stability.
Preventative Strategies and Crisis Management
A primary part of treatment at facilities like Twilight Recovery Center includes teaching guests preventative strategies and crisis management skills to ensure they feel confident about using healthy coping techniques during moments of crisis. Some of the relapse prevention strategies you can use include:
- Practicing mindfulness and self-care every day
- Understanding your triggers and avoiding them
- Using grounding techniques to decrease or eliminate intrusive thoughts and cravings
- Having emergency contact details for crisis lines and people you trust
- Developing a safety plan
5 Ways to Avoid Relapse
There are many ways to stop yourself from relapsing during early and ongoing recovery. Below are 5 practical preventative coping measures to help you avoid relapse.
#1. Learn to Recognize Your Physical Triggers and Remain Mindful
Part of rehabilitation involves learning how to identify and cope with triggers that you cannot avoid, including:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Environmental factors
- Physical sensations or behavioral routines
- Items, people, or places in your community
Once you know how to recognize them be mindful of situations when you may encounter them and plan ways to minimize their effect on your mental health.
#2. Use Coping Techniques for Cravings and Intrusive Thoughts
Use the coping skills you learned in therapy to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed when you encounter triggers that leave you with cravings or intrusive thoughts. Popular coping techniques include:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Reaching out to a friend to talk
- Focusing on your senses to ground yourself
- Leaving the area if possible
- Being Mindful
#3. Maintain Regular Self-Care
Take care of your body to keep your mind healthy. Maintain regular self-care by doing the following:
- Eating regular nutritional meals
- Getting enough quality sleep each night
- Taking time to meditate and relax
- Creating a healthy work-life balance
#4. Use Your Support System
When you reach a crisis moment, use your support system to keep yourself from following through on the temptations presented by intrusive thoughts or cravings. You can call, text, email, or visit someone from your support system when you feel alone, overwhelmed, or tempted to relapse.
#5. Stay Grounded When You Cannot Avoid Triggers
Red flags are not always easy to avoid. For example, you may encounter triggers at work where you have a limited ability to adjust your routines or create preventative measures. Mindfulness-based techniques and exercises are an excellent way to continue functioning and avoid relapse during these moments. Engage your five senses and connect your mind and body to the moment. Doing this will lower stress and decrease the risk of being triggered.