Facts on Relapse Prevention

Relapse is a series of behaviors and actions that leads up to a return to substance abuse. Essentially, relapse occurs before the first drug or drink is taken. If these events can be avoided early on, a person can maintain long-term sobriety. Find out about the facts on relapse prevention.

Rates of Relapse

Approximately 80-90% of addicts experience at least one relapse in the first three years following addiction treatment. This high rate of relapse suggests that addictive behaviors share similar biochemical, behavioral, and cognitive components.

Reasons for Relapse

After a period of abstinence, the shift from the first drug or drink to excessive relapse using depends on the person’s reaction to the substance. A recent clinical study found that many relapses are triggered by three situations deemed as high-risk: temptation, anger/frustration, and social pressure.

The Relapse Process

Relapse starts before you use the first drug or pick up the first drink. If you are going to meetings, your attendance may start to slip. Then you stop calling sober friends or your sponsor, and before you know it, using sounds like a good idea. When you do take the first drug or drink, the fire of your addiction is going strong again, and it is too late to stop.

Coping Skills

What are the triggers for relapse? A bad day? A long line of traffic or interaction with another substance abuser? These triggers can serve as catalysts for a relapse into substance abuse. To avoid these triggers, you must learn new ways to deal with certain situations and apply coping skills learned in meetings and treatment.

Retraining the Brain

What unhealthy behaviors do you use when faced with a situation that is challenging or scary? Do you use self-defeating behaviors? When things go well, do you self-sabotage the situation? If you answer yes to any of these questions, it is time to retrain your brain to have more healthy thoughts and behaviors. The key to long-term relapse prevention is to avoid self-defeating actions.

Sticking to a Recovery Plan

Through committed and honest participation in treatment, recovering addicts gain an improved understanding of the reasons for drug and/or alcohol use and abuse, and the social and environmental situations that make abuse more likely. Making a plan for the initial, risky first period out of rehabilitation will ensure temptation aversion. This encourages the practice of recovery. A recovery plan will keep you focused, busy, and safe.

Support Systems

If you are craving or planning on using, a good support system is a main thing that will help you avoid this. Good people in your life will keep you on the road of sobriety. When you feel like you are going through the first stage of relapse, it is important to connect immediately with your support group, such as:

  • Your counselor
  • Your sponsor
  • Your group members
  • Your friends and peers in recovery
  • Other people who do not use drugs

Recommit to Sobriety

When you sense you are heading toward a relapse, know that you can turn it around. Just remind yourself to take one day at a time. Start the next day over knowing that sobriety is better than drug addiction. Recommit to your meetings, sponsor, and support group.