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What Should I Do If I Relapse in Recovery?

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What Should I Do If I Relapse in Recovery?

Being able to stay sober is the hallmark of every addiction recovery story.  However, there are people like Rob, whose journey to recovery take many twists, turns and relapses before finally achieving their sobriety goals.  “I’ve been incarcerated, I’ve been to treatment, and I’ve overdosed countless times. The only thing I hadn’t tried yet was to find a new way to live. So after detox, I went into residential treatment for 28 days where I really started my recovery” he said in his recovery story.  

When a relapse happens after being in abstinence for a period of time as it did for Rob, it can be extremely discouraging.  Many people falsely believe that it is evidence that they can never overcome their addiction and give up trying.  The reality is that addiction that occurred over a period of months or years can cause significant impairment to important brain functions.  Even after effective treatment and long term abstinence these individuals can still be vulnerable to memory triggers that produce intense cravings.  For this reason, scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) emphasize that prevention is an extremely important element in the relapse addiction recovery process. Acknowledging that a relapse is always a threat and being prepared increases the chances of preventing one from occurring in addiction recovery.  

Relapse prevention preparedness entails:

  • Participating in a comprehensive addiction recovery program long enough for restoration of neurological functions hijacked by addiction to begin.
  • Fully engaging in a relapse prevention education and training program.
  • Having an effective aftercare plan and a strong support system.
  • Having an early detection plan that can stop a relapse at the onset.
  • Staying connected through meetings and alumni programs among others.
  • Be prepared to resume addiction treatment if a relapse occurs.
  • Whenever possible, involve family and close friends into your recovery plans and sobriety goals.
  • Be prepared to remove yourself from any person, place or thing that threatens sobriety.  
  • Consistently exercising vigilance about staying sober means never assuming that it is safe to flirt with potentially addictive substances even after years of total abstinence.  

Since there are multiple indicators or warning signs before a relapse actually occurs, it is important to establish solid, measurable steps that the individual can take to stop or get out of a relapse quickly and return to a healthy recovery state. These may include going to meetings more often, reengaging a sober coach, seeing a therapist or returning to a drug rehab facility.  Awareness of the relapse process will enable the person in recovery to more quickly identify sobriety threats and take steps to prevent a potentially deadly relapse or becoming immersed again in the cycles of addiction.

Failure to follow the conditions of the recovery process addiction researchers say is the primary reason a relapse occurs. The most important aspect of avoiding relapse in addiction recovery is maintaining abstinence. According to NIDA scientist this means being aware of personal psychosocial and emotional triggers, avoiding frequent exposure to environments that favor substance abuse, and developing healthier coping skills.  Having a recovery-oriented attitude that recognize the power of addiction is also considered to be a key factor in preventing relapse in addiction recovery.

Sources:

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