Top 8 Relapse Prevention Skills to Get You Through Early Recovery

Relapse prevention skills are an important part of the recovery process. At any stage of recovery, there is a risk for relapse. Having strong relapse prevention skills can help you avoid triggers and stay on track with your sobriety. Over time, implementing these coping skills will become easier and feel more natural to your everyday life.

Acceptance Recovery Center educates our clients on relapse prevention techniques and how to use them to maintain recovery. Below are eight relapse prevention skills that we feel are critical to long-lasting sobriety.

1. Practice Good Self-Care

Following good self-care improves your quality of life and protects you from relapse. Take care of your health by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting enough rest at night. This may sound basic, but it’s common to get caught up in the daily chaos of life. Unfortunately, many people who relapse are able to look back and realize that a lack of self-care triggered their downfall.

2. Pay Attention to HALT

To help you practice good self-care, we teach our clients to pay attention to HALT – Hunger, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Ask yourself if you’re feeling any of these things, and if you are, address them right away.

Keep in mind that some of these terms encompass more than just a physical feeling. For example, “hungry” doesn’t just mean that your body wants food. You could be longing for something else like attention or acceptance. Listen to your body and do a regular inventory of HALT.

3. Use Meditation in Times of Stress

Stressful situations happen to everyone. Fortunately, you have a variety of tools to help you through these circumstances. One of them is meditation. Mindfulness meditation teaches people how to be more self-aware. Reaching this heightened state of awareness allows you to recognize and cope with triggers.

Mindfulness meditation may feel strange at first, especially if you’re not used to meditating. With practice, it gets easier and feels more natural. Rather than fighting your cravings, you can roll with them until they are over. Meditation also teaches you how to be present in the moment without judgement.

4. Identify Your Triggers

Before you leave treatment, you’ll be asked to identify your triggers. Some triggers you may not be aware of, but some you are. Triggers can be internal or external:

  • Internal triggers come from within such as low self-esteem, anger, boredom and anxiety.
  • External triggers come from outside sources like other people, places and things that remind you of your past use.

As you identify your triggers, you can build a life that avoids them as much as possible. For triggers that can’t be avoided, you will work on developing healthy coping strategies, improving self-esteem and rehearsing ways to say no in social settings.

5. Join Local Support Groups

In early recovery, you should be active in support and self-help groups. These groups allow you to connect with other people who are working through addiction. This significantly reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation because you’re reminded that you’re not alone and that long-term recovery is possible.

Plus, if you’re having a bad day or feel that you’re at risk for relapsing, you can count on your new support circle. Self-help and support groups can be found throughout your community and include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and others.

6. Follow Good Grounding Techniques

Some of the biggest obstacles in staying sober are stress and anxiety. When you feel these emotions, it’s tempting to reach for a bottle or pill to take the edge off. But now that you are sober, you need other ways to cope with your symptoms. This is where strong grounding techniques come into the picture.

Examples of grounding strategies are:

  • If you’re reminiscing about your past drug or alcohol use, focus your sights on something else such as a crossword puzzle or the furniture around you.
  • Light a candle, do some laundry or put essential oils on your wrist. These scents can have a positive impact on your mood.
  • Reset your taste buds by biting into a lemon or lime, letting chocolate melt in your mouth or sucking on a peppermint.
  • Relax your mind and body by touching something relaxing like bubble wrap or a stress ball. You can also run your hands under warm water, pet a dog/cat or massage your temples.

7. Practice Deep Breathing

Another coping mechanism is deep breathing. Breathing is connected to many parts in the body, including the brain. By breathing deeply and slowly, you can trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain that promote happiness, relaxation and pain reduction. The 4×4 technique is useful as it requires you to take four deep breaths in through your nose and hold four seconds before releasing.

8. Keep a List of Reliable Contacts

By now you should know which people in your support circle you can count on. Create a list that includes these people’s names and contact information. Or add them into your phone.

The reason for having this list is so that you can reach support at any time. Whether you’re going out with friends, having a bad day or starting something new, having a strong support network can help you work through cravings.

Start Your Recovery with Acceptance Recovery Center

These eight relapse prevention skills will give you a great start as you transition into everyday life. Remember that recovery is a journey that does not happen in a month or two. It’s up to you to follow your aftercare plan, make healthy choices and keep yourself out of harm’s way. By following these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a healthy recovery.

To start your recovery or learn more about our affordable outpatient programs in Scottsdale, Arizona, contact Acceptance Recovery Center today.