The decision to quit using alcohol or drugs is an important first step on the path to a new life. The hard work of getting sober follows. Recovery may free you from many of the problems that substance abuse caused in your life, but you will still have to face the everyday stressors and major life changes that everyone must deal with. In the past, you may have dealt with stress and change by drinking or using drugs. That is no longer an option. By thinking ahead and planning strategies for dealing with trigger events, you can be more confident about avoiding relapse on your road to recovery.
Relapse is a process that begins long before you take a drink or use drugs. Many people in recovery have found that coming up with a relapse prevention plan is an effective strategy for staying healthy and avoiding substance abuse.
A relapse prevention plan that covers the following areas can help you defuse a relapse before it begins.
- Identifying high-risk situations that you know will tempt you to relapse. Plan in detail what you will do or say when you are in a situation that puts you at risk.
- Avoiding people who put your recovery at risk.
- Dealing with stress and problems at home, school or work before pent-up emotions lead to a crisis.
- Learning relaxation techniques that will help you maintain your equilibrium.
- Taking time to exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Finding a work-life balance that allows you to fill your spare time with activities that your enjoy and helps you avoid negative feelings like boredom, anger and loneliness.
- Overcoming cravings to drink or use drugs by relying on the help and support of family, friends or a support group or counselor. Let them know the warning signs of relapse so they can help you deal with stress and trigger events.
According a study published by the National Institutes of Health, the short-term relapse rate for alcoholism and drug addiction recovery can range up to 50 percent. Relapse is more likely to occur during the first 90 days of recovery, which is why residence in a sober living home after the initial drug rehabilitation is so crucial. During this early recovery period, handling stress can be especially difficult. In general, the longer you are sober, the easier it will become to cope with stress. The risk of relapse will decrease but not completely disappear, making it important to have a recovery prevention plan in place.
Many people who are in the process of relapsing do not see the warning signs. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are concerned about your well being and are prepared to help.