If you or someone you love has attended a drug rehab program and successfully completed it, it is a huge accomplishment. While in treatment tools were provided to assist in staying clean and sober, relapse prevention plans were developed, and aftercare plans were made. Although successfully completing is a great feat, successfully completing treatment is just the beginning.
Working in an inpatient setting, I applaud the accomplishments of patients. It is nice to see progress made, insights gained, and increased awareness of addiction and addictive behaviors. However, I also remind them that remaining drug-free will be a challenge because true recovery is a life-long journey. Some people will remain clean, some will relapse, and some will become what is commonly referred to as “chronic relapsers.”
There is no magic wand to help substance abusers avoid relapse; staying clean and sober takes a lot of hard work and commitment. However, there are ways to decrease relapse potential with the hopes of avoiding relapsing completely.
1. Avoid tempting situations.
I have often heard patients share that they wanted to prove to themselves or others that they could be around substances and not use. This is particularly dangerous. While one may be able to avoid temptation in that moment, this may not always be the case, especially for one in early recovery. If possible, steer clear of any situations that may place you in the way of temptation. These situations can be either physical or emotional. Try to avoid going places where there will be substance use or where there will be reminders of times you used. Also try to avoid people or situations that can be emotional triggers.
2. Develop a positive support network.
Often, addiction social circles consist primarily of “using buddies,” with supportive family and friends being distant outliers. Surround yourself with positive people who do not engage in substance use and who are supportive of your substance-free lifestyle. It is important to have healthy people who will be able to support you in your times of need. Sever unhealthy relationships and ties to unhealthy people. If necessary change your number, delete their numbers, block or delete them from social networking sites, and work on creating a new and healthier support network.
3. Create a healthy schedule.
I often encourage patients before leaving treatment to create a daily schedule. This schedule usually includes times for treatment and meetings, necessary activities such as work or family time, activities of daily living, and free time. Creating a schedule is a great way to develop a new and healthier routine.
In treatment, patients are required to follow some type of schedule as a part of learning structure. By creating a schedule for when treatment has ended, the patient is able to continue that structured living. When scheduling for free time, it is important to find constructive activities to fill that time. The key is not allowing for time for frequent boredom.
4. Don’t get complacent.
When I speak with patients following relapse, one of the most common reasons I hear is “I got complacent.” Complacency is dangerous. Many are highly motivated after completing inpatient treatment to continue with an aftercare program or 12-step meetings. They also develop their support network and make other strides in their recovery. However, this motivation starts to dwindle over time. As progress continues, they no longer deem all of the recovery efforts necessary. I am not saying that one has to stay in treatment or attend meetings forever. Everyone has to find what recovery program works for him or her. However, when you find what does work for you, stick with it and continue to make it work.
5. Don’t view relapse as a failure.
If you relapse, don’t view it as the ultimate failure. It is this type of thinking that will keep you sick. If you were able to stay clean and sober before, you will be able to do it again. Reach out to others and seek help. Begin working your recovery program again. Process the events and emotions that led to relapse so that they are not repeated. By processing these situations, you can learn from your mistakes. This will only help you in your journey in recovery.