How to avoid relapsing

Mike Page
Authored by Mike Page
Posted Tuesday, April 9, 2019 - 10:00am

Recovering from substance abuse disorder is a lifelong pursuit - one that takes a lot of determination and discipline to achieve. The risk of relapsing is always there for an addict. As such, there's an extra need to be careful about the places you go, things you do, and the people you associate with.

Similar to recovery, there's no textbook approach to avoiding relapse. A relapse is always a bad decision from an addict. You can't find a step-by-step article telling what to do in exactly every situation. What you can do is to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Here's a list of potentially dangerous situations that can lead to a relapse for a recovering addict:

  • Negative emotions: Emotions like anger, loneliness, guilt, and sadness are emotions we can't avoid feeling at certain points in life. The problem is that for a recovering addict, relapsing might appeal to you as a way to cope with these negative emotions. The only solution is you have to learn to deal with your emotions without any aid. It will be difficult but worth it in the end.  
  • Stress: This is probably the most common reason for drug addiction (especially prescribed drugs) and relapse. Any sustained negative emotion can lead to stress as well as work, family, and personal issues. Being practical about how you handle stress will be crucial in you dealing with this threat.
  • Isolation: Forming a social network is essential if you're going to steer clear of drugs. Support groups like the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other recovery groups help you socialize and form bonds with people who have shared similar experiences with you. This usually translates to a support system that helps you all help each other. In the absence of this support system, it becomes easy to rationalize retaking those drugs.
  • Physical pain: The main issue with addicts is that their chances of getting addicted again after treatment are significantly higher than those of regular people. This is the case even if the substance isn't the same as what they were initially addicted to. Now, consider a recovering alcohol addict faced with severe pain and having to take painkillers. Because most painkillers are addictive, this can potentially be a fire and gunpowder situation. The solution is to be realistic with yourself and open with your new doctor about your history with addiction. They may prescribe another drug for you or help closely monitor your dosage.
  • Sex and relationships: One of the more common pieces of advice given to recovering addicts is that they should avoid relationships for the first year of their recovery. It's often ignored. The emotional highs and lows involved in having a relationship may be too stressful for the psychology of the addict and could make them start using again, or they could end up swapping their substance addiction for love or sex addiction.

All of the above are just a few of the situations that represent threats to recovering addicts. However, overconfidence in one's abilities can also be a cause. Keep in mind that you're not invincible. If you feel any event poses a risk to your sobriety, avoid it and talk about it with someone close to you. Making yourself accountable to the people you love will always be a way to prevent relapsing.  

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