The word “Recovery” has been made an acronym to highlight the many features of recovery that are vital to success. And while I agree with almost all of them, there is one that stands out and it bothers me – Relapse. I firmly believe that relapse is NOT a part of recovery. Yes, it can and does happen and if and when it does, there are ways to handle this. For example, filling yourself with guilt and shame is counterproductive and often leads to perpetual excuse making that will only lead back to full blown addiction practices. Thus, those who do relapse are encouraged to recognize the seriousness of the matter but then shake it off and get “right back on the horse” as the old adage goes.
Relapse is the awakening of addiction that recovery has put to sleep. It is the transport that takes us from recovery back to addiction. All aboard? I don’t think so.
The good news is, there are things you can do to minimize risks and prevent yourself from relapse. At the end of the day, you get to choose to continue your recovery or to relapse your way back to addiction. Below are some tips that may just help you stay par for the course in your recovery.
1. Exert Willpower
Those living in active addiction may feel that any willpower they have has been depleted or exhausted. However, choosing recovery fills the willpower tank and each and every time you resist one temptation, willpower grows and becomes stronger. Willpower is simply the ability and choice to harness our inner strength (and strength from our higher power) and use it to accomplish something – in this case, to resist temptation, relapse and stay on the road to recovery. We all have this ability even if we feel the willpower tank is low – we have more than we think we do.
2. Be Positive
When life and stress overwhelm – it’s not always easy to stay positive. But reducing stress and/or dealing with it in a healthy way can help to cultivate a positive attitude. When times get tough, call a trusted friend, your sponsor, your therapist or do something that healthy that releases stress. Go to the gym, go swimming, soak in the hot tub, unwind with a close friend, etc.
3. Stop and Smell the Roses
Life is filled with responsibilities and things to do. If you don’t stop once and awhile to enjoy the moment, stress and tension can creep in making recovery and sobriety harder to maintain. Living for the moment and enjoying what’s happening in the hear and now can produce a happier, care-free attitude making resisting temptations if/when they arise much easier.
4. Practice Recovery Daily
Temporary treatment programs such as inpatient addiction treatment centers / drug rehab facilities, medicine assisted treatment (MAT) such as Methadone, Suboxone and Naltrexone (Vivitrol and ReVia) can jump start your recovery and provide you with the necessary tools to live a healthy, sober life free from drugs. However, recovery is for life. There is no such thing as “recovered”. Thus, when your initial drug, opiate and/or heroin treatment program is completed, getting involved in long-term maintenance therapy is vital to ensure perpetual success. The 12 step program, counseling (individual or group therapy), etc. can be helpful in keeping recovery principles in your head 24/7.
5. Patience is a Virtue
Patience is one of the most easiest of concepts but one of the most difficult to put into practice. Anything that interferes with our immediate plans or long term goals can produce anger and even rage. Why do you think road rage is so common? But those new to recovery need to understand that true healing takes time. Families and friends of addicts need to apply the principle of patience as well since putting too much pressure on a recovering addict may increase stress and risks of relapse. Besides, anxiety and worry usually does nothing but produce unnecessary stress and thus, recovering addicts and their families, friends and loved ones need to work together and have patience as the recovering addict is still healing.
6. Rest is Crucial
Eating healthy, exercising and practicing sobriety daily is important. However, sleep and rest is vital in ensuring a long term successful recovery. Get plenty of sleep each night and relax the mind, body and soul when appropriate. But be careful not to sleep too much. Sleeping night and day and inactivity can be a sign of depression and is as much of a problem as not enough sleep.
7. Avoiding Triggers
It may be obvious to suggest staying away from heroin, opiates, drugs and alcohol. But this is sometimes harder than we think. People, places and things can be triggers, increasing the risk of temptation and relapse. We may have to cut certain people off, such as those we previously used heroin / drugs with. Changing one’s environment and routine is often appropriate to avoid putting yourself at unnecessary risk.
8. What You’re Experiencing is Normal
We may question ourselves, especially in the beginning of recovery when emotions are running wild and thoughts are more clear. Using drugs may have numbed the majority of our feelings so we may be experiencing many of them for the first time, or at least the first time in awhile. Learning how to respond to our negative emotions and thoughts in a healthy way is a vital part of a successful recovery. Our previous coping strategy was using heroin and those of us in recovery know how destructive going back would be Going to the gym, writing down your thoughts and feelings, talking with a friend are all examples of healthy ways of coping with difficult emotions, thoughts and feelings.
Relapse may or may not occur but don’t let anyone convince you that it’s inevitable. But or those who have relapsed and survived, you’ve been given a second chance at life. Don’t fill yourself with shame and guilt. Instead, get right back on the road to recovery and rebuild your support system as necessary. To get help from other recovering addicts just like you, visit our free heroin addiction & recovery discussion forum.
Written and Published By,
William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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