For many who have battled substance abuse, the battle does not end at recovery. Staying clean is often a lifelong battle and, while it gets easier, sobriety is something one must actively commit to every day. As such, it is important to learn how to prevent relapses and how to recognize and handle your triggers. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 40% to 60% of recovering drug addicts relapse, which is not unlike the rate of relapse for other chronic illnesses, such as hypertension or asthma. After all, it is important to remember that addiction is a disease.
Just because the numbers seem overwhelming, however, does not mean you should throw in the towel and quit. To the contrary, one should use this as a source of motivation. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone when you are having a difficult time with sobriety, but also remember that it is worth the fight.
The Triggers and Warning Signs
Relapses can happen in an instant and are usually triggered by events, interactions, or a relationship that causes an addict to feel the urge to use again. The most common triggers can be categorized as emotional, environmental, or exposure, and are based on old routines or memories. That said, no two people are alike, so they can differ from person to person. Examples of common triggers include:
- Negative emotions, such as stress, anger, guilt, depression, loneliness, or fear that stimulate drug-seeking behavior
- Friends or locations that remind an addict of using
- Exposure to the addict’s drug of choice
- Seeing or sensing an object of addiction, such as a syringe
- Social pressure
- A desire to achieve a positive emotional state or to have fun
- The use of other substances the addict did not previously abuse
Some situations, such as the loss of a loved one, conflicts with others, health problems, or major financial difficulties can all increase the likelihood of a relapse. Be aware of the following warning signs:
- An overconfident attitude
- A self-pitying attitude
- Spending time with people who were part of the addict’s drug-using past
- Abrupt changes in routine or engaging in irresponsible behaviors
What You Can Do to Prevent a Relapse
It is important to understand that you cannot control everything when it comes to preventing a relapse. You are always going to be surrounded by forces that are unpredictable and out of your hands. People will say and do what they want, and things will not always unfold according to your plans. Once you accept that, you can focus on being prepared to face any triggers. Some helpful tips for preventing relapse include:
- Knowing what your triggers are
- Having a support system that helps you avoid your triggers and keeps an eye out for warning signs
- Regularly attending therapy or support group sessions that allow you to discuss what you are going through
- Avoiding exposure to drugs and alcohol
Unfortunately, some people will relapse. If this happens to you, you are likely going to feel terrible, fearful of the future, and even confused about how to proceed. What happened to all of your hard work? Where do you go from here? First, you need to get in touch with your sponsor or your therapist. He or she can assess the situation and help decide the best course of action. Depending on your situation, this plan could involve going back into treatment or attending more therapy sessions. Coming back from a relapse will be difficult, but it is crucial not to beat yourself up about it. Instead of thinking of your relapse as a failure, take this opportunity to learn from your mistakes, so you can keep fighting and winning this battle. The more you understand yourself and what drives you to relapse, the better you can guard yourself against it and stay sober.
Acceptance Recovery Center in Scottsdale
At Acceptance Recovery Center in Scottsdale, our dual-diagnosis facility is dedicated to helping individuals who struggle with substance abuse, behavioral issues, and mental health disorders. In our care, you will be shown how to identify and understand the underlying causes of your addiction and learn to develop mindfulness for a life-long solution. Get started on your path to sobriety today!
Learn more about our program in Scottsdale and what we can do for you by giving us a call at (844) 336-2250.
Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County.