One of the most difficult things to come to terms with, when on the road to recovery, is the fact that a relapse is likely. Around 40-60% of people recovering from physical addictions will relapse when being rehabilitated, (alcohol.org). While this number may seem high, it is important to realize that relapse is not an essential part of the recovery process, but rather a response to particular triggers.
Understanding your triggers
It is crucial to understand your personal triggers and the ways that they may cause you to repeat past behaviors. For many people, a primary trigger would be the environment in which they most often engaged with alcohol-drinking behavior. This could be with certain individuals in their life, particular places, and various other surroundings which would remind the individual of the substance abuse they used to partake in. Other triggers that are commonly referenced are withdrawal symptoms, the presence of alcohol-related objects such as bottles and glasses, as well as loneliness and stress. These are all by no means mutually exclusive and can often combine to make the possibility of relapse even more relevant.
Another important thing to understand is that relapse is a process that seldom happens suddenly. There is an enormous number of factors that can cause a potential landslide into picking up another drink. Work-related stress is a common one, as is pressure in social situations. It is important to recognize when the first signs of a relapse begin to show themselves, so that they can be addressed straight away.
When signs of a future relapse begin to surface, the most effective way to deal with them is to tackle them straight away. Be this via a support network, via particular coping mechanisms which have been learned previously or via removal of oneself from the situation, it is crucial that action is taken as soon as possible.
Creating a relapse preventon – things to consider
When creating a relapse prevention plan, every factor addressed thus far should be kept in mind. A relapse prevention plan is entirely different from a sobriety plan. A relapse plan should be kept in mind constantly, so that any signs of a future relapse can be brought to light and handled as soon as possible.
Creating a relapse prevention plan needs to be a careful and precise process. The first step is recognizing your personal triggers and then creating an exit strategy if any of these should come up.
For example, if a trigger is a particular person; someone who enables drinking behavior or someone from a bad relationship, then the exit strategy should be to avoid that person and to cut off contact entirely.
If the trigger is work-related stress, then the exit strategy should be to pre-emptively plan how to minimize this stress and plan around possible stressful situations. This could be anything from delegating some responsibilities to colleagues, to creating a work schedule which factors in social interaction and time spent away from work.
Additionally, it is important to make sure you have a strong support system, filled with people who are both supportive and understanding. This will help you to reach out to others when you are experiencing negative feelings, or when there is a temptation to relapse back into drinking behavior.
In situations when it is not possible to have a strong support system, it is important to reach out to as many people as possible. Creating this kind of network is not easy and it may be uncomfortable opening up to others about your addiction, but even if this is a medical professional or a colleague, it may be incredibly helpful.
A good relapse prevention plan should incorporate everything that has been talked about so far. It should outline your own triggers, with immediate, personal responses to each one.
It should look something like this:
– When I am reminded of my previous drinking behavior by contact with the people I used to drink with, I should leave the situation.
– When I am feeling stressed out from work, I should contact my colleagues and ask them to help me with my workload.
– When I am feeling depressed and I am struggling to not have a drink of alcohol, I should contact a close friend, a relative, or a medical professional to inform them so that they can help me/advise me.
It is incredibly crucial to stick to a plan similar to this and to understand that the temptation to relapse is a real one. However, it does not need to be a part of your recovery, and creating a relapse prevention plan will dramatically help to reduce this possibility.