The first stages of an addiction relapse happen long before the drugs and drinks again enter the body. It starts when the addict returns to their old ways of thinking and coping. It may be weeks or even months later before the addict actually uses it again. It means that there is almost always time for successful relapse prevention. Thus, a relapse prevention plan is a part of a good addiction treatment program.
Relapse prevention includes both planning and a commitment to following that plan. Since there are numerous warning signs before a relapse occurs, a key part of a relapse prevention plan is being honest with yourself about what events might trigger it and determining how to respond ahead of time.
Going over potential relapse triggers and the appropriate response is something that should include those who are aiding the addict’s recovery effort, like a counselor or sponsor in a 12-step program. Successful recovery requires the help of others, and relapse prevention is perhaps the best example of that.
Lots of things can trigger a relapse, like a divorce or the death of a loved one. Oftentimes, it is more subtle things that work to bring on a relapse, like anxiety or anger, among others. These things grow more powerful if they are left unaddressed and can lead to exhaustion, which can prompt the desire to escape, leading to thoughts about using drugs or alcohol again.
The addicts need to realize that they caused this upon themselves. Blaming others will not work even if you do it for your whole life. You think that your problem is drugs or alcohol consumption, but the actual problem is the whole way of thinking.
One may think that why relapse prevention is necessary when one can enter the addiction treatment again after the relapse. Theoretically talking, yes, it is so possible, but there are plenty of addicts who relapse, and then they never find their way back into sobriety. The journey from addiction to recovery has often been described as a trip to hell and back. Once been to hell, no one would want to take a trip back, so why to take the risk when you can stay safe.
The relapse prevention plan involves those around the addict, including the sponsor and counselors and the addict’s family members. A supportive family can make a big difference between the phase of addiction recovery and relapse. Ultimately, recovery is the addict’s responsibility, but family members who seek their own counseling or attend 12-step groups like Al-Anon for friends and family of problem drinkers can learn how to best help the addict stay clean and sober.
Also, it is not enough to just identify possible relapse triggers. The addict must also alter how he or she responds to those relapse triggers. For instance, an alcoholic can avoid bars or parties that trigger the desire to drink again. If work-related stress is a relapse trigger, you can learn how to say no to extra projects, limit your total workweek to your standard hours, meditate and perform other relaxation exercises.
One most important step is to ask for help when you need it. You may feel upset about using drugs or alcohol again, but don’t let yourself become bogged down in guilt or self-pity. Lots of recovering addicts relapse at one point. The goal of recovery is progress, not perfection.