Addiction is a chronic disease, much like diabetes or cancer. As with those illnesses, unfortunately, a recurrence of the disease of addiction is possible even after many years of recovery. When it happens, it’s not a moral failing or a mistake, and it’s more than a slip: It’s another symptom of a vicious illness, and it deserves professional treatment.
Although relapse can happen at any time in an individual’s journey through recovery, many studies indicate that it is more common in the first 90 days of recovery, while the brain is being essentially rewired to function without the long-abused substances of choice.
No matter how much recovery you have amassed when you relapse, healing is possible. There is a lot you can do to move towards recovery once more. These tips are just a start.
1. Detox from drugs and alcohol, again.
Detox is the process by which the body clears itself of drugs and alcohol. Even if you had years of recovery before your relapse, you will need to detox once more in order to work on the underlying causes of your relapse. Before you even attempt it, make sure you get rid of any drugs or alcohol that you may have gathered during the relapse. Give your best chance at another clean start. That may mean undergoing detox at a professional addiction treatment facility, where you can get support and even sometimes medication to make your detox more comfortable.
2. Identify your triggers for drug & alcohol use.
Just like eating sugar can trigger diabetic episodes, certain behavior can cause a flare up of addiction demons. If you know what puts your recovery in danger, you can do your best ahead of time to avoid it. This is even more crucial because people who have abused drugs and alcohol have experienced changes in their brain that make them more susceptible to temptation.
According to an article in Psychology Today, drug and alcohol abuse overstimulate the reward centers of the brain, causing long-term changes in the brain’s functions: from memory, to impulse control, decision-making, and more. Memories of substance abuse become linked to those reward centers, making people, places, and things associated with drinking or using very likely to spark cravings.
If you have relapsed, look back on your behavior in the weeks before your relapse:
Did you visit a location or area where you used to buy or consume drugs or alcohol?
Did you see something or someone that reminded you of drinking or using?
Did you encounter a stressful or negative situation and struggle to cope?
What were you thinking about before you began craving alcohol or using drugs again?
What were you doing when the craving became too strong for you to resist?
Did you think of anything that you could do to avoid relapsing, and if so, why didn’t you do it?
3. Avoid triggers for drug and alcohol abuse.
Once you’ve identified your triggers, you must be vigilant in avoiding them. For some, this might even mean restricting the time that you spend with family or sitting out on work or leisure events. You may experience some blowback from friends or family at first as you start to change your life and redefine your boundaries. Just remember, anyone who has your best interests at heart will support you in doing whatever you need to stay clean and sober. Above all, you need to put your own health and safety first. It may feel different and even uncomfortable, but remember: Living life the way you were before is what led to your drinking and using.
4. Pursue addiction recovery tools for managing stress.
Think about the positive coping mechanisms that you used while you were in recovery. It could even help to make a list.
What did you enjoy doing? Journaling? Yoga? Talking with friends? Such activities can be a natural coping mechanism for stress. It might even be something as simple as walking your dog.
If you can’t think of anything, here are some additional ideas: jogging, basketball, swimming, meditation, reading, writing poetry, drawing or coloring, photography, cooking and baking, play an instrument, gardening, walking, playing a game, watching television or a movie, cleaning or organizing your home, talking to someone you trust, and so much more.
Everything might sound boring or off-putting when you’re in the grips of addiction or recovering from a relapse. Keep your expectations low and your mind open when trying a new hobby. You never know what might become your new passion.
5. Get the help that you need in addiction treatment.
There is no shame in going back to get addiction treatment after a relapse. Whether you had a week of recovery, a decade, or more, we all always have more to learn.
If you’re ready to hit the reset button and do recovery different this time, contact us. Acqua Recovery is unique among treatment centers due to the strength of our clinical programming and our gorgeous location in Midway, Utah. Don’t give up. Recovery is possible for anyone.