Relapse is a process. Long before that first drink or drug is taken, relapsing out of recovery, the process began. What precisely causes relapse would have to be followed very carefully through the inner-workings of thousands of neurons in the brain. Generally, there’s a formula. It begins when one’s program begins to fall on the wayside. Meeting attendance decreases, therapy sessions are skipped, friends are withdrawn from- all of the tools that have been picked up as a program of recovery get dropped. Next, is the behavioral changes. There’s more resentment as opposed to forgiveness, more fear than faith, and more talk about substance use. A strange thing happens in the brain after it’s been rewired to associate pleasure with a certain substance. Repeated use and exposure created that connection. When the thoughts of recovery and abstinence get replaced by thoughts of old times and pleasure, those very chemicals start activating again. Before a drink or drug is taken, the brain goes into craving mode. Ultimately, relapse is the result of craving. Viewing addiction as a moral issue and thereby relapse as a failure of morale or will power does the complicated chemical process a great disservice. So strong is the craving for drugs and alcohol that the brain tricks itself, and the body, into believing, it already happened. Without any armory left to defend themselves, people fall into the lapse of abstinence.
Here are ten best practices for relapse prevention to keep on track and avoid temptation.
- Stay in Meetings: keeping up routine as normal is important. Attending meetings keeps you accountable for your recovery and keeps you connected to newcomers.
- Do the work: if you’re with a therapist, doing steps for your program, in an intensive outpatient, or reading books, don’t stop doing ‘the work’. Becoming complacent will lead to stagnation.
- Keep up with prayer and meditation: connect with your higher power and inner self on a daily basis. This will keep you grounded and centered so that triggers are less effective.
- Be of service: volunteer, take in someone new, or help around the house. Being of service always gets us out of self.
- Get involved: taking a commitment at a meeting or joining a group of young people in recovery are great ways to find cool hangouts and events to stay busy
- Find a new hobby: yoga, knitting, painting, rock climbing- whatever is going to keep you willing to stay sober and have fun!
- Stay away from old hangouts: there is no need to hangout at the bar when you’re feeling like you might drink. Fill your life with positive new experiences.
- Have fun: recovery is fun. Don’t be afraid to let loose and get goofy!
- Practice Gratitude: Gratitude is the attitude of recovery. Stay grateful for the life you have and you will be less inclined to risk it with another drink or drug.
- Stay Healthy: when you feel good, you want to feel good. Balanced diet and regular exercise keep happy hormones producing and regulate emotion.
Refuge Recovery offers a comprehensive treatment program for men and women. Detox, residential, intensive outpatient, and other levels of care are available. For more information call (323) 207-0276