The Main Objective of Recovery: Relapse Prevention
Continuous, ongoing recovery happens one day at a time – sometimes one hour or one minute at a time. There is no doubt that navigating the early days of sobriety can be challenging. Managing cravings, overcoming triggers, establishing a new routine, and making new sober friends can feel overwhelming. But, in the long run, it’s all worth it.
The number one goal of sobriety is to stay drug and alcohol-free no matter what. This means executing a successful relapse prevention plan in your daily life. Sometimes, this can be a brutal undertaking. The desire to return to drinking or taking drugs is often very strong. Coping with cravings is vital to recovery.
At Experience Recovery, we teach clients relapse prevention tools so they can learn how to live and enjoy a sober lifestyle. Nevertheless; we believe that incorporating your own relapse prevention strategies is equally important.
What is Relapse Prevention?
As explained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is defined as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness.”
Like other illnesses, addiction sometimes involves periods of recovery and periods of relapse. The goal is to avoid relapse, enjoy recovery, and experience wellness. The only way to sustain ongoing sobriety is to maintain complete abstinence from alcohol and drugs. If a recovering person takes a drink or uses a drug, they experience a relapse.
Relapse prevention requires an ongoing effort to stay in recovery. At first, this is extremely difficult. With time, however; staying sober gets easier, becomes more comfortable, and gets downright fun.
Triggers Always Precede a Relapse
Relapse prevention involves a plan of action and changed behavior. The best way to avoid a relapse is to identify your triggers and stay away from them wherever possible. You should also have coping strategies in place to manage triggers when they arise. Triggers can lead to relapse. They should not be underestimated.
A trigger is anything you experience that sparks a desire to drink alcohol or take drugs or brings back memories of getting drunk or high. Everybody who is recovering from the disease of addiction experiences triggers. They are completely normal – although they can be quite uncomfortable.
Do you know what triggers you? Is it a certain kind of music? Seeing people you used to drink or take drugs with? What about going to the ATM machine or driving past a bar you used to frequent? Maybe you might feel a desire to drink alcohol or take drugs when you feel lonely or stressed out.
Everybody is different. Learn the importance of identifying your personal triggers.
Relapse Prevention Strategies in 12-Step Recovery
Relapse prevention happens through working a 12-Step program like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. This means going to meetings regularly, working with a sponsor, and completing stepwork. This is considered daily maintenance in recovery. It is designed to support you on your sobriety journey.
Here are some other daily 12-Step activities you can adopt as relapse prevention strategies:
- Fellowshipping with other recovering people
- Being of service to others
- Reading recovery-based literature
Active 12-Step involvement is awesome, but many newly sober people find that they want to pursue other outlets to enhance their sobriety. We encourage you to incorporate your own relapse prevention strategies beyond your 12-Step participation. This will help you maintain spiritual fitness and address triggers as they arise.
Identify Your Own Relapse Prevention Strategies
We want to offer you a few suggestions as you identify your own relapse prevention strategies. Not only can these activities can help you stay sober in the face of triggers, they can also improve your overall quality of life. The more you enjoy your sobriety, the less likely you are to relapse.
Here are some recommendations for incorporating your own relapse prevention strategies:
- Participating in a meditation group
- Exercise (jogging, walking, aerobics, or weight-lifting)
- Talking with a supportive friend or family member
- Pet therapy
- Taking a hot bath or shower
- Engaging in a hobby you enjoy
- Binge-watching your favorite show
- Art therapy
- Listening to (or performing) music
- Laughing (stand-up comedy might help!)
- Volunteer work at a worthy organization
This list is not meant to be all-inclusive. These are just a few of the many unconventional relapse prevention strategies you can incorporate into your own recovery program.
To Thine Own Self Be True
Recovery is an ongoing process of self-discovery. As you continue to stay sober, you will learn more about yourself with each passing day. One of the greatest things about recovery is that you get to explore different activities to find out what you enjoy doing, what helps you relieve stress, and what allows you to overcome triggers.
Remember, this is your journey. It is meant to be enjoyed. What may work for some may not work for you. That is why incorporating your own relapse prevention strategies should be an integral part of your sobriety. Get out there are try new things. Your recovery depends on it.