Relapse prevention is a critical part of treating addiction, and it is not just important in the weeks or months after a detox. In fact, relapse prevention is a lifelong endeavor that requires regular attention and effort. Relapse prevention is partially dependent on personal development and self-awareness, but it also relies on building (and maintain) a strong support network. Here are the basic facts you need to know about what causes relapse and how you can pursue the most effective methods of relapse prevention.
What is relapse?
When you return to abusing drugs and alcohol after a successful period of abstinence, this is called a relapse. If you don’t return to a former substance of choice but start abusing another drug, this may also be considered a relapse.
What causes relapse?
Every experience of relapse is different, but there are certain common triggers. Addiction and emotions are very closely connected, so it’s typical to return to abusing drugs or alcohol in times of extreme stress. This stress may be evoked by workplace demands, involve difficult romantic relationships or revolve around tough family dynamics. In some cases, relapses are also triggered by the grief associated with a sudden or traumatic loss, or by anxiety around social interaction.
It’s also worth noting that friends or family members who don’t have a recovering addict’s best interests at heart may try to encourage a return to drugs or alcohol, kick-starting a relapse. In many instances, it’s hard for those who are still addicted to drugs or alcohol to see someone else leave this unhealthy lifestyle behind, and there is a temptation to prove that the recovering addict is not ‘better’ than they are. Peer pressure to engage in substance abuse is particular common in younger people, but it can happen at any age.
Ways to avoid relapse
The most effective form of relapse prevention starts at a treatment facility, typically after a detox. Individual therapy is offered with the goal of facilitating deeper understanding of the roots of addiction, and group therapy provides much-needed support as members of the group work towards their common goal of recovery. Different types of therapy can be useful, with cognitive behavioral therapy often proving especially effective at providing recovery tools and changing beliefs and feelings about substance abuse.
Once in-patient treatment is over, some people move to a sober living community where drugs and alcohol are not permitted. Others transition back into their regular living environment but regularly attend meetings or support groups that focus on providing a safe, private place to talk about addiction, cravings and the potential to relapse.
A large part of relapse prevention involves developing the skills to resist the urge to relapse. For example, it’s important to learn how to respond to stress without the numbing effects of drugs or alcohol and to learn how to enjoy social interaction without substance abuse as a crutch. Ongoing therapy (for months or years) may be needed to help create and sustain new, improved coping mechanisms.
Finally, the role of family education and support cannot be overemphasized. When families grow to understand the nature of addiction and its triggers, they can abandon old behaviors that may have been destructive or enabling. Treatment centers often offer family therapy that aims to mend fences that have been damaged by chronic alcohol abuse and to help family members grow closer, developing mutual understanding that helps to prevent the chances of a future relapse.
If you’re struggling with substance abuse and worried about relapsing, call Yonkers Alcohol Treatment Centers today on 914-219-4133.
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