Relapse is a common part of recovery from addiction. In fact, according to some studies, relapse rates for drug and alcohol abuse are as high as 90 percent within the first year after treatment. But don’t despair: Even if you’re at risk, there’s still hope. If you can prevent relapsing in your recovery, you’ll be able to stay on track and enjoy long-term sobriety. That being said, here are 14 ways to avoid relapse during your road to recovery.
- Understand That Addiction Is a Chronic Disease
As the American Society of Addiction Medicine explains, “Addiction is a primary, chronic brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” It’s not about willpower or moral failure; it’s about an illness that changes how your brain works. It may never go away completely, but it can certainly get better with time.
- Get Support From Family and Friends
According to the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence (NCADD), family members and friends play critical roles in helping people recover from addiction. They can provide social support, emotional encouragement, information about triggers, and insight into what kind of help will be most beneficial. Support from loved ones helps you realize how much they care about you and builds trust and connection. Talking to them regularly about your progress also increases the likelihood of staying sober.
- Find New Hobbies and Interests Outside of Recovery
In addition to getting support from family and friends, you need other things to do. Keeping yourself busy with new activities fills your schedule with something more constructive than drugs and alcohol. You won’t feel tempted to turn back to old habits when you have hobbies and interests outside of recovery. You can learn more about hobbies and find new ones through local community centers or online resources.
- Make Sure Your Social Life Is Positive
As you get closer to sobriety, it might be harder to cut ties with people who encourage alcohol or drug use but make sure to avoid these individuals. If someone wants you to join them when drinking, decline politely. Stay friendly without engaging in those unhealthy behaviors.
- Practice Healthy Coping Skills
There’s no single best way to cope with stress. Everyone has different needs and personalities. But one thing is true for everyone: Don’t let stress build up. Learn to manage your stress so it doesn’t have a chance to become overwhelming. Stress management skills that work for others may not be suitable for you. Start small and figure out what works for you.
- Avoid Unhealthy Habits
If you’re struggling with addiction, some of your habits are likely causing problems. So it makes sense to avoid them while you’re trying to stay sober. Some bad habits to eliminate include smoking, using illegal drugs, and having sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can easily lead to relapse.
- Stay Active and Keep Moving
Studies show that regular exercise can help reduce cravings and increase feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Exercising releases endorphins, which are chemicals released by the brain that trigger positive effects. Endorphins boost your mood and give you a natural high. Physical activity boosts endorphins and improves your mood.
- Avoid Certain Foods and Drinks
Some foods and drinks contain chemicals that can cause cravings for drugs and alcohol. For example, sugar activates the same reward system as cocaine or heroin in our brains. Overeating sugar can eventually result in withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee or soda can trigger intense cravings, especially if you’re used to drinking them regularly.
- Avoid Contact With People Who Use Drugs or Alcohol
It’s easy to slip back into old habits when you hang around people who use drugs or drink heavily. Try to avoid places where you know people will drink or use substances. If this isn’t possible, limit your interactions with them. The company you keep should be positive and encouraging to you in recovery.
- Surround Yourself With Positive People
It’s hard to stay focused on your goals when you’re surrounded by negative people or people who encourage substance use. It’s okay to spend time with these people occasionally, but you want to minimize contact with them whenever you can. You can find positive people by joining recovery groups.
- Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Don’t blame your addiction on anyone else. Try to remember that your actions led you to addiction, and now it’s up to you to take responsibility for getting clean. Blaming others only leads to resentment and anger and distracts you from your recovery efforts. To avoid relapsing, you must acknowledge your role in your addiction and forgive yourself.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Professional Help
If you have relapsed before, don’t be afraid to seek professional help again. In addition to talking to your doctor, you might benefit from seeking help from a licensed counselor. Counselors can help you identify why you relapsed, develop healthy coping strategies, and create an action plan to prevent future relapse. Professionals can also teach you techniques for managing stress and dealing with stressful situations.
- Stay Away From Certain Places Where You Used to Drink or Use Drugs
It’s important to avoid places you used to go to obtain or consume drugs or alcohol. If you went to bars or parties after using, avoid returning there for a while. If you hung out at your dealer’s house, avoid going back until you’ve been sober for a few months. Even if you haven’t fallen off the wagon yet, avoiding these places can make staying away from drugs and alcohol easier.
- Recognize When You’re Having Trouble With Sobriety
Recognizing when you’re having trouble with sobriety can help you address it before it becomes a problem. Sometimes people fall off the wagon because they don’t realize how far off track their behavior is. They may not notice that they’re experiencing some of the warning signs of drug and alcohol abuse. If you think you need help, reach out to your support system.
For many people, successfully overcoming addiction is a long process that requires patience. Relapse is common for people trying to overcome substance use disorders. But with proper treatment, most can achieve lasting sobriety. Don’t lose hope.