Addiction recovery is a process. There is no magic cure that eliminates cravings and ensures sobriety. Individuals must make a conscious effort every day to maintain a substance-free lifestyle and make healthy choices. Unfortunately, relapse in addiction recovery is an issue that often arises, and one that individuals must understand so that they can learn how to manage.
Substance misuse changes how the brain processes information, so it takes time to rewire these connections and reduce cravings. The risk of relapse tends to be highest within the first 90 days of recovery, but it can happen at any time. Someone who has been sober for 20 years could still experience a slip or relapse depending on the situation. Knowing how to respond is key.
Don’t Give Up
Relapse in addiction recovery is not a sign of failure. It does not mean that treatment does not work. It can be easy to think that if you relapse, it means that recovery is too hard and you can’t do it. But you can. Slipping up and having a drink or misusing drugs is a sign that something needs to change and you need to adjust the strategies or routines you have been following. You can still go on to have a lifetime of sobriety ahead of you.
Find a Safe Space
If you do find that you had that drink or engaged in substance use, stop what you are doing and get yourself into a safe space. Find somewhere to go where there is no temptation to misuse drugs or alcohol, where there are no immediate triggers, and where you can think things through. A change of scenery can be good and help you to keep things from progressing any further.
Recognize that you need help and support. As part of your relapse prevention plan, you should have the names and numbers of people you can contact in case of these situations. Don’t hide what happened; speak up and tell someone so they can work with you on recovery and getting appropriate treatment. Realize that mistakes happen, but what is important is taking steps to address them.
This goes for family too – if your loved one has experienced a relapse, don’t ignore the problem or hope that it will go away. Support them in taking action so they don’t fall back into a lifestyle of active addiction. Recovery is possible, even after relapse, as long as they have a strong support system in place and seek treatment.
Make a Change
Relapse in addiction recovery is a sign that something needs to change. Think about the situation you were in and what may have triggered your drug or alcohol use. Was it the place? The people? Something you saw? A song that was playing? Stress that had been building? Understanding what contributed to your slip or relapse can help you identify where you can make changes.
Depending on the situation, you may benefit from more time in rehab. An outpatient treatment program may provide the support and assistance you need to get back on track with your recovery. Or, you may want to start talking to a therapist or counselor more frequently, or attending additional support group meetings.
In addition, you may reconsider who you spend time with or where you go. You may explore new hobbies or classes to take give you a greater sense of purpose and enjoyment or help manage stress. Mental health can play an integral role in relapse prevention; recovery is not only about steering clear of drugs or alcohol. It’s also about changing your mindset and behaviors.
Be proactive in maintaining an effective relapse prevention plan and recognizing signs that could lead to a slip. Make necessary adjustments to continue managing triggers and building healthier routines. If a relapse does occur, turn to a reputable treatment center like Crossroads to find a program that fits your needs and helps you move forward in recovery.