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By Jamie P | 16 October, 2020 Published in Recovery
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When you are an addict and you decide to get sober, it is a battle that you will be fighting for the rest of your life. Recovery is not over when you finish treatment for your addiction.

You are not a former addict just because you are no longer active in your addiction. You are a recovering addict who is at risk of relapse at any given moment.

If you relapse it does not mean you are no longer in recovery, relapse is a part of recovery.

However, there are ways to deal with the triggers and high-risk relapse situations that lead to a relapse.

In this guide, you will learn about ways to deal with these situations and how to avoid them.

What Is A Relapse?

Relapse or “falling off the wagon,” is when a recovering addict has refrained from abusing drugs and alcohol for a while and all of a sudden reverts back to using or drinking.

It is common when an addict enters recovery, however, it can also be dangerous, even life-threatening.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a relapse in recovery or for a person diagnosed with substance use disorder should be treated as a relapse with chronic illnesses.

The rate an individual may relapse with substance use disorder closely mirrors to individuals with chronic illnesses such as asthma or hypertension. These disorders and illnesses are incurable however they can be managed.

Addressing the physiological, cognitive, emotional, and mental aspects of addiction while seeking treatment ensures greater success.

What Is Relapse Prevention?

Relapse prevention is an approach used to identify and address high-risk relapse situations to maintain abstinence or prevent future relapses if a lapse has occurred.

When a person relapses, it is an indication that existing relapse prevention plans need to be reevaluated to determine the cause or trigger for the relapse.

A relapse prevention plan should address the factors that could put you at risk for relapse. Not only should you include people, places, or things, that trigger a relapse, you should include emotions and ways of thinking.

These situations are categorized according to whether it is a low, moderate, or high risk for you to lose self-control and relapse.

High-Risk Relapse Situations

When assessing high-risk relapse situations, you should compare them to low-risk situations and identify why they are different.

This will help you understand the need for having coping skills in place to overcome the temptation to use.

Some examples of high-risk situations include:

  • Places that you would frequent during your period of active addiction
  • People that you would use or drink during your active addiction period
  • Things that you would use to consume your substance of choice, i.e. a shot glass, straw, or syringe

These high-risk situations can be powerful triggers for someone in recovery.

Emotions and negative ways of thinking can appear to be small risks for relapse, however, both can lead to anxiety, depression, and eventually relapse.

How To Deal With High-Risk Situations

Not all situations can be avoided. Therefore you must learn how to deal with high-risk situations and prepare yourself for unexpected situations that could trigger a relapse.

On the other hand, you want to avoid an obvious situation that will put you at high-risk for relapsing.

An example of this would be to avoid hanging out with old friends that are still in active addiction in an environment where people are using. Individuals new to recovery will oftentimes miss their old friends and want to hang out.

However, when everyone around you is using, your coping skills are nonexistent and the cravings will overpower you to the point that you lose self-control.

If you inadvertently find yourself in the same situation, the best way to deal with it is by removing yourself from the situation.

Here are other ways that you can deal with high-risk situations:

  • Refrain from substituting one drug for another. Some people will think that since they were addicted to pain pills, drinking alcohol is okay. Drinking is a substitution for the pain pills and after a few drinks, you will not be in the right frame of mind to make rational decisions. This can lead to a relapse
  • Recognize the emotions or negative thoughts that can trigger your use, and find ways to cope. This can include attending a meeting or calling your sponsor
  • Find ways that you can learn to relax if you are placed in a high-risk situation without warning. When your mind and body are at ease, you are less likely to resist change, and you can work through the situation before it spirals out of control. An example of this would be having a bad day at work. To relieve the stress you have one drink, that one drink leads to two, and before you know it you’re on a binge. If your body were in a relaxed state, you would have been able to work through your stress
  • Remember the 5 rules of recovery and incorporate them in daily life
  • Recite the serenity prayer. This works for many recovering addicts that find themselves in a high-risk situation that they cannot change
  • Work the 12-step program

There are some people in recovery that use an acronym that helps remind them of high-risk situations.

HALT – This refers to being hungry, angry, lonely, and tired as situations that put you more at risk to use, or have intense cravings.

Using eliminates these feelings, therefore you are more apt to relapse if you experience these emotions.

The best way to deal with it is by eating healthy throughout the day, working on managing your emotions, getting involved with a self-help group, and making sure you are getting adequate rest every night.

Rules You Should Incorporate In Recovery

People will joke all the time that rules are meant to be broken. However, when it comes to your recovery, this does not apply.

There are 5 essential rules that you should incorporate in your recovery to help prevent a relapse.

These rules are:

This involves making changes in your life where it is easier not to use it. You need to change your old ways of negative thinking and surround yourself with sober people.

Stopping the use of drugs and/or alcohol is not enough when you are serious about your recovery.

You need to make changes in the people you hang around, the places you hang out, and the things that you do.

Ask yourself:

  • Have you developed ways to work through negativity?
  • Have you removed high-risk triggers in your life?
  • What happens when you have a craving?
  • What strategies do you have in place when dealing with high-risk situations?
  • Have you set healthy boundaries for yourself?

When you are active in addiction, lying just rolled off your tongue because it was second nature. Your entire life was a lie.

You lied to doctors, friends, loved ones, police, and yourself to get your drug of choice and get your next fix. One of the things you are taught when working the 12-step program is, to be honest.

Some people may find themselves too embarrassed to ask for help. However, if you want to succeed in recovery you can’t do it alone. You need to have a support group where you develop a recovery circle.

This recovery circle should consist of family, friends, counsellors, recovery groups(i.e. NA, AA), and therapists, or other health professionals.

This is important because you will overcome feelings associated with substance misuse, and your recovery circle will hold you accountable for the things that happen in your life.

Self-care is defined as doing activities that will help you take care of your mental, physical, and emotional health.

Oftentimes, individuals will want to make up for lost time now that they are sober, and will push themselves past their limits.

However, when you are constantly feeling guilty about the past and overwhelmed about the future you are at risk of relapse. Exercising, relaxing, and enjoying activities to free your mind will allow you to practice self-care.

These forms of self-care will motivate you to follow other types of self-care including getting enough sleep and eating healthy.

This rule may sound redundant, however, you should adhere to every rule otherwise you are setting yourself up for an emotional relapse.

When you decide to bend the rules or substitute one addiction for another, it won’t be long before you pick up where you left off. Therefore, don’t pick up.

Final Thought

In this guide, you should have learned the best ways to manage high-risk relapse situations and rules to follow in recovery. You should also have a clear understanding of what a relapse is, how it can be prevented, and how to recognize situations that put you at risk for a relapse. Even if you have a relapse, it is okay, as they say in the rooms, “Keep coming back! It works if you work it, so work it ’cause you’re worth it!”

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080483/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5844157/

https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/five-rules-of-recovery.htm

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-use-addiction-basics

https://www.alcohol.org/alcoholics-anonymous/