Good news and bad news. First the bad news. There’s no cure for addiction. Thus, no matter how strong and tough you think you are, anyone and everyone in recovery possesses the potential for relapse. Now the good news. Addiction can be treated and for those already in recovery, there are ways you can prevent a relapse from occurring. These 10 relapse prevention tips can help anyone in recovery but are particularly important during the first 90 days of addiction treatment.
Addiction is a disease of the brain. Nobody chooses to be an addict but addiction can be prevented by a decision not to engage in risky behaviors. This includes any risky activity that touches the pleasure center of the brain. The disease of addiction always requires an object. Common addictions include substance use and abuse (heroin, opiates, benzodiazepines Cocaine, Crack, marijuana, alcohol, etc.) and activities (gambling, risky and/or unprotected sex with multiple partners, gambling, workaholism, etc.). Addiction is fed by indulging and/or engaging in its object. Those in recovery have made an active choice (as difficult as it is) to abstain from feeding their addiction. A relapse can occur if someone in recovery breaks their commitment because the urges or compulsions (typically from trigger thoughts) become too strong.
Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a lifelong process however, the first 90 days of recovery are critical. Relapses can occur at any time during someone’s recovery but they are most common during the first 90 days of addiction treatment and recovery.
Residential treatment is great and we highly recommend it to anyone who has the insurance and/or money. However, all good things come to an end and thus, much like a vacation, everyone must return to their own reality. But the purpose of residential inpatient addiction treatment, other than to enjoy a resort like get-away from reality is to equip and empower newly recovering addicts with the tools and coping skills and strategies to deal with daily, everyday life – including its stressors. The below 10 relapse prevention tips are perfect for those who’ve just returned home from residential treatment and/or have chosen other methods of recovery without leaving their home.
10 Relapse Prevention Tips
These 10 relapse prevention tips apply to anyone in addiction treatment and recovery but are downright critical during the first 90 days of one’s recovery.
1. Avoid Triggers
Men and women in recovery may need to make some changes / adjustments to their life. This includes eliminating what’s called triggers. Learn more about Knowing and Avoiding Triggers During Heroin Addiction Treatment. Triggers are people, places and things that may tempt a recovering addict to use heroin, or the object of addiction. Stopping communication with people who are still using and staying away from places or things that bring back “using memories” is crucial.
2. Establishing & Maintaining Routines
Establishing a daily schedule and regimen that includes healthy and “normal” behaviors and habits. This includes daily grooming habits (showering, brushing your teeth, etc.), eating breakfast, exercising, working, attending 12 step or SMART recovery meetings, meeting your counselor, going to the MAT (medicine assisted treatment) clinic if applicable, spending time with family, etc.
3. Developing Benign Obsessions or Healthy Hobbies
Boredom is the number one cause of a wandering mind. A wandering mind can lead to “trigger thoughts” or “using thoughts”. A using thought is a direct thought about using whereas a trigger thought has to do with memories associated with people, places and things from the days you were living in active drug addiction. Finding healthy hobbies or what I like to refer to as “benign obsessions” can help alleviate boredom, a wandering mind, using thoughts and trigger thoughts. See Addiction Replacement Therapy: Trading Heroin Addiction For Benign Obsessions for more information.
4. Attend Meetings Daily
12 step program meetings that includes Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery (if it happens to be in your area) can be a valuable system of support for your ongoing recovery. Whether or not you’re within the first 90 days of your addiction treatment program or in long-term recovery, meetings can provide a great deal the recovering addict with a great deal of support.
5. Find a Mentor, Counselor or Sponsor
A therapist/counselor, mentor or sponsor is someone who can provide a recovering addict with individualized therapy or support during addiction treatment and even long-term recovery. A sponsor, a term used in AA and NA specifically helps members of the organization through the 12 steps and can give real-time, practical advice based on their own experiences. Note that a sponsor or personal mentor should not take the place of actual therapy as they are not licensed and don’t necessarily have the skillsets to address some of the more difficult life-struggles a recovering addict may be facing.
6. Create a Safe Environment at Home
Home is where the heart is. It’s also supposed to be a safe haven, a place of serenity and tranquility. Making and keeping it that way will help make going through addiction treatment and recovery a lot easier. Keeping people who use drugs out of the house and only inviting those who make life pleasant and enrich it will keep it safe. Decorating ones home can also help to create an environment of peace. You’d be surprised how much character a little decoration can add, making the home a desirable living space.
7. Build a Support System of Family and Friends
Some things in life just aren’t meant to be done alone. Addiction treatment and recovery is one of them. Building a support system of family and friends is an excellent relapse prevention tip. Instead of using when trigger thoughts or using thoughts come about, reaching out to a loving friend or family member can prevent what could otherwise be a dangerous and unhealthy decision. Friends and family can help put a recovering addict’s mind in the right place and prevent relapse.
8. Set Realistic Goals
In addition to finding fun, recreational hobbies, creating a list of realistic goals and going after them can be an excellent relapse prevention strategy. Anything that you’d like to achieve in the next year, 5 years or even 10 plus years can be productive. Examples include finding employment, dieting and exercise, getting to meetings, reacquainting with old (non-using) friends, buying a car, buying a house, finding the woman or man of your dreams, getting married, having children, etc.
9. Finding Employment
Making legitimate money is a great way to spend time, even if it’s not something you ultimately enjoy. As it’s been said, “Get the job you need so you can get the job you want”. This is great advice. Not only does gainful employment fill up a lot of time and prevent wandering “using” or “trigger” thoughts, but it’s a great way to make some money to spend on healthy hobbies or assets.
10. Take Care of Yourself
An active addict rarely pays attention to their diet, sleep and physical activity. In recovery, these things become downright critical Getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising will make you feel better all-around and will likely put using heroin or other illicit drugs further away from the mind.
Some literature suggests that a recovering addict doesn’t rush back to work and limits social activity but as long as a recovering addict takes it slow and gets involved in healthy and constructive activities, I don’t see a problem with working or enjoying healthy social activity. If anything, it can help a recovering addict to feel “normal” again.
A recovering addict needs to take care of themselves which means putting themselves first at times, especially during the first 90 days of treatment and recovery. If anyone needs help breaking free from addiction, you are encouraged to contact us or visit our list of prescreened top addiction treatment centers.
Written and Published By,
William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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