Relapse Prevention Tips
People who have problems with addiction often slip up at least once while they are getting better. Some people even fall off the wagon more than once before they stay sober for good. Even though there are approved treatments for addiction to nicotine, alcohol, and opioids, more than two-thirds of people who start treatment will go back to using again. 1
The first step in relapse prevention is to figure out what might make you do it and have a plan for how to deal with it. Here are five triggers that you should think about and talk about with your therapist or counsellor.
Stress is the main reason why people relapse. And many people who have trouble with addiction use their favorite drug or activity as a bad way to deal with it. In fact, research shows that people “want” drugs, alcohol, or addictive activities more when they are stressed, especially if that substance or activity was their main way to deal with stress.
One way to get ready for this trigger is to think about how stressed you are. Even though you can’t get rid of everything and everyone in your life, you can avoid stressful situations. So, it might help to make a list of all the people, places, and things that stress you out too much.
People or places that are linked to the behavior
People who used to drink, smoke, or do drugs with you could cause you to go back to your old habits, even if they don’t do those things anymore. In the same way, going to places that remind you of your addiction can be a trigger. Even people in your family could be a trigger, especially if they make you feel like a child or weak.
It’s important to have good ways to deal with your feelings when you’re reminded of your addiction. For example, if you’re an alcoholic and a group of drinking friends asks you to go out or you see people from work going to happy hour, it might help to have a specific answer ready.
Times to be cheerful
Even good things, like birthdays and vacations, can be triggers. You might feel happy, in charge, and sure that you can handle one drink, one cigarette, or one light flirtation with the attractive stranger. But can you really take care of it?
When someone has a problem with addiction, they often lose the ability to know when to stop. So, that one drink could lead to a lot more. Or, buying yourself one new pair of shoes that you don’t need could lead to a shopping spree.
Having a friend can help when you are at risk of giving up again. Find someone you trust and respect who can help you stop doing what you’re doing in a kind but firm way if you start to slip up again.
No matter what you’re doing or where you are, you always have the right to go home if alcohol or drugs make you feel uncomfortable, upset, or tempted. You deserve to have a great holiday, and you should never feel like having fun means putting your ability to stay sober at risk. By making a plan—a plan to keep you from relapsing over the holidays—you can stay safe and in control.
Remember that a relapse is not a sign that your recovery failed. You’re walking along a path you’ve never been on before. So, with continued therapy and support, you should be able to build up stronger defences against common triggers.