When it comes to maintaining long-term sobriety, the development of relapse prevention skills is essential. These skills will be instilled in medical detox and inpatient addiction treatment, and individuals who are new to sobriety will be able to utilize them in real-life situations as soon as they transition to sober living – where they will have a higher level of personal freedom. This personal freedom likely seems appealing to those who have just been in an intensive rehab program for the past three months – however, it can be difficult for some individuals to maintain sobriety without the structure and built-in accountability provided by residential treatment. Relapse prevention skills refer to the set of healthy coping mechanisms that allow an individual to successfully work through any uncomfortable emotions that might arise and any relapse triggers that might present themselves. Some examples of healthy coping mechanisms include:
- Calling up a sponsor or another trusted sober support when any issues arise. Simply talking through things with someone can be enough to bring some reason and rationality back to the situation. As recovering addicts and alcoholics, we tend to think that we can do things on our own – or that we should be able to take on and overcome all our issues ourselves. The truth is that interpersonal relationships are crucial to success in recovery. It is very important that you surround yourself with a group of like-minded men and women who can be there for you whenever you need them.
- Setting healthy boundaries and maintaining these boundaries. If you are constantly bending over backwards to please other people, there is a good chance that you are not paying adequate attention to yourself and your own needs. Neglecting self-care can be a major relapse trigger. Part of self-care is knowing your own limits. Set boundaries and do everything in your power to maintain these boundaries – doing so does not make you selfish or self-absorbed, it simply means that you are prioritizing your own recovery.
- Knowing ways in which you can practice self-soothing. For example, knowing that if you are super stressed out about something work-related, you can clear your mind by taking a long drive by the coast and listening to your favorite music rather than reaching for a cocktail as soon as you get home. Over time you will start to recognize what works for you and what does not. Early recovery is a fulfilling journey of self-discovery. The more you learn about yourself the more stress-free your life will become, and the easier it will be to practice self-soothing in stressful situations!
5 Common Relapse Triggers
We have compiled a list of common relapse triggers. It is best to be prepared when it comes to avoiding relapse. Of course, your personal relapse triggers will vary significantly based on your history and past experiences. However, the following triggers are liable to be experienced at least once. It is wise to avoid the following situations entirely, but if you can’t do so, then it is wise to have a set of healthy coping mechanisms in place that can help you through even the most emotionally uncomfortable experiences.
- Hanging out with old friends – friends that still drink and/or use drugs. When you get sober you will develop an entirely new circle of friends – even if you were not planning on doing so! These friends will support you through the tough times and be there to celebrate your recovery triumphs with you. If you start gravitating towards your old friends, there is a good chance that you will eventually return to drinking and drugging – even if they say that they are supportive of your sobriety. It can be difficult to stay sober when everyone around you is actively using.
- Spending time in places that are not conducive to recovery. This could include nightclubs, bars, or holiday celebrations or parties that revolve almost exclusively around drinking excessively. The old saying goes, “If you keep showing up to the barber shop, eventually you are going to get a haircut.” It will be difficult to change these behavioral patterns at first. If you are used to going to the same bar every Friday night with the same circle of close friends, it will be difficult to repeatedly turn down the invitation. But eventually you will find a new groove and settle into a new – healthier – way of life!
- Break-ups. It is advised that men and women who are new to recovery do not make any major changes within the first year. This includes entering into a new relationship. This can be tricky, seeing as many individuals who are new to recovery will seek external validation from relationships, and use sex and romance to fill a void created by an absence of chemical substances. Unfortunately, going through a break-up brings up a wide range of severely uncomfortable emotions – sadness, rejection, a lack of self-worth, the list goes on. It is better to avoid these emotions all together if at all possible! Allow yourself time to get to know yourself before you spend time getting to know anyone else.
- Stress. If you can, try to avoid putting yourself into high-stress situations. This might mean refusing to take a promotion at work if you know it will cause significantly more stress in your life, or waiting to file for divorce until you have been sober for an extended period of time (at least a couple of years). Stress cannot always be avoided, but it can always be managed. While in medical detox, inpatient treatment and aftercare you will learn to manage your stress in healthy and effective ways. If you are ever facing a situation you are not sure to handle, you will have extensive resources available to you to help you through the tough times.
- Being overconfident in your recovery. Believe it or not, confidence is not always a good thing. If you start to get overconfident in your ability to stay sober, you might end up tripping over your own feet and relapsing in the long run. It is important to note that there is a major distinction between self-confidence and overconfidence. When you are self-confident it is likely because you are proud of yourself and the progress you have made in your recovery thus far. You feel good about where you are at and confident that if you stay on the right track you will continue making significant strides. This is a good thing – you want to feel proud and capable! However, moving into overconfidence means you will think things like, “I’ve got this.” Or “I can skip a meeting or two here or there because my recovery is so strong and I’m not at risk of relapse.” It is important to stay humble while working a program of recovery and understanding that addiction is far more cunning, baffling and powerful than you are – and it can take hold again at any point in time if your guard and defenses are down. Be sure you stay on top of your personal recovery program and stay as humble as possible!
Chapel Hill Detox and Relapse Prevention
At Chapel Hill Detox, we begin relapse prevention training during the very first stage of the recovery process. We believe that medical detox should incorporate therapeutic care as well as pain-free withdrawal. To learn more about our comprehensive program of recovery, give us a call today.