Addiction and substance abuse are common problems for 23.5 million Americans, yet uncomfortable silence surrounds the topic. We’re not supposed to talk about our mental health problems or admit an addiction. Addiction itself is frequently viewed as a moral failing, a weakness of will, or an excuse to avoid life’s endless hurdles. And while recovering from addiction is certainly an arduous albeit rewarding journey, many still raise doubts that challenge the validity of achieving long-term sobriety. It may just boil down to learning relapse prevention strategies.
As experienced addiction specialists, AspenRidge recognizes that the path to recovery is different for everyone. Giving yourself room to make mistakes and continue is one of the most crucial relapse prevention strategies to embrace when seeking recovery support. We provide assistance at any stage of addiction. Contact us directly for more information on our comprehensive and evidence-based programs at 855-281-5588.
Relapsing: A Different Perspective
Recognizing and understanding the chronic nature of substance abuse provides an opportunity to learn more about what treatment options work and those that fall short. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding substance use can cloud our perceptions of success during recovery. For many who face drug abuse issues, relapse is the equivalent of complete and utter failure. Still, relapse happens frequently.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the rates of relapse in recovery fall between 40% and 60%. Studies also prove that these types of setbacks can trigger bouts of shame, guilt, and even depression or anxiety, which quickly forces people back into cyclical episodes from which they just escaped. Perhaps the clearest way to learn how to avoid relapse triggers begins with accepting its likelihood.
These facts do little to reassure those who cast uncertainty about drug treatment efficacy. It begs a critical question: is there a different way to view relapse?
Achieving Sobriety is Not an End Destination
To challenge the status quo, relapse is not inherently bad. Yes, after winning the battle for sobriety, it can be devastating to consider that it may not last forever. However, shifting one’s mindset and acknowledging relapse for what it truly is–a temporary setback–can make a world of difference for success in the long-run. This is one of the most crucial relapse prevention strategies to embrace. Setbacks do not equate to failure but rather a reminder that mistakes can happen, but always be corrected.
It changes the typical perspective, altering long-established definitions of success and failure related to substance use disorder (SUD). Simply put, relapse is one part of lifelong recovery. Individuals should, therefore, consider recovery as a growth process rather than an achievement trophy. It’s continual, and it evolves based on experiences, outlooks, and individualistic needs. Since these things change with time, treatment programs should shift to accommodate new obstacles and challenges. It’s a fluid process, and learning how to avoid relapse triggers is a skillset that most certainly can be developed.
Stages of Relapse
According to the National Institute of Health, relapse is a gradual process with three distinct stages. Also, consider the four main ideas surrounding relapse. Studies, for one, suggest that the primary goals of various treatment programs focus on relapse prevention. While many programs assist with detox and drug dependency, the core curriculum is designed to guide and plan how to avoid relapse triggers.
Secondly, recovery has distinct developmental milestones, each of which carries its risks of setbacks. Third, while alcohol and drug abuse impact everyone differently, there are common factors in addiction that can offer a better, more effective way to provide treatment. For example, a National Survey on Drug Use and Health reveals that addiction is a brain disease that can begin as a coping mechanism for mental illness, stress, physical ailments, and other issues. Tools for relapse prevention, therefore, usually incorporate cognitive therapy that aims to replace unhealthy coping mechanisms. Finally, treatment should focus on important tenets, including:
- Change your life
- Be completely honest
- Ask for help
- Practice self-care
- Don’t bend the rules
Warning Signs of Relapse
According to the American Addiction Centers, certain thoughts, feelings, events, and other factors can influence or trigger cravings or urges for drugs and alcohol. Without a clearly established plan that considers how to avoid relapse triggers, individuals may succumb to these impulsive urges. Fortunately, there are warning signs that can help individuals take preventive action. Here are the stages to consider:
1. Emotional Relapse
Typically, emotional relapse occurs when a person cannot cope healthily with heavy emotions. Specific events or problems may agitate these emotions that can cause sudden isolation, combative behavior, denial, and neglect of self-care. While a person may not immediately think to use alcohol or drugs, avoiding these intense emotions can cause internal turmoil that can lay the groundwork for relapse down the road.
2. Mental Relapse
During this stage, a person may already be conflicted in how they feel about getting sober or maintaining sobriety. As a result, a person may be battling intense craving and strategizing ways to relapse. Signs of a mental relapse include: glorifying past drug use, taking an opposing viewpoint on the effectiveness of drug treatment, minimizing the consequences of using again, and seeking out people or opportunities that would allow a person to get high.
3. Physical Relapse
As implied, this happens when a person succumbs to uncontrollable cravings and begins using alcohol or drugs again. It can trigger a binge episode that doesn’t always have a good outcome.
Relapse Prevention Strategies
Learning how to avoid relapse triggers takes time and patience. After all, substance abuse didn’t start over night and overcoming it might take longer than you hope. Relapse prevention strategies begin with mindfulness.
Relapse is a real possibility for anyone recovering from alcohol or drug addiction. Preventive measures should be considered the early warning signs in order to reduce the severity of these setbacks. It takes time to develop issues of substance dependency. Similarly, it takes time to unlearn damaging habits and acquire the skills that allow you to avoid relapse triggers.
Consider different methods of avoiding relapse triggers, such as:
- Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
- Manage your time more effectively to avoid operating in panic mode.
- Incorporate health and wellness into daily routines such as exercise or adequate sleep.
- Celebrate small wins and give yourself room to make mistakes, too.
AspenRidge: Helping Clients Plan Relapse Prevention Strategies
AspenRidge has helped thousands of Coloradans attain sobriety through evidence-based and holistic drug treatment programs. We recognize that relapse is part of the process of recovery. However, we also provide guidance in creating strategies aimed to prevent detrimental setbacks.
Our staff are highly trained in assessment and can provide safe medication treatments, counseling options, and relapse prevention. Additionally, AspenRidge offers three different online and telehealth tools available during the COVID-19 pandemic. A list of our programs include:
- Day Partial Hospitalization (Day Program)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (5-Day IOP)
- AspenRidge AspenRidge Virtual Care Online 5-Day IOP
- 5-Day IOP for Professionals and Working Adults
- Outpatient Program
- Alumni & Aftercare Program
Contact AspenRidge Recovery Centers at 855-678-3144 to speak to staff about various programs and treatment methods for alcohol, drug, and other co-occurring disorders. Further information can also be found at www.aspenridgerecoverycenters.com. Gaining knowledge prior to taking the steps towards recovery is crucial, and AspenRidge is determined to help.