When it comes to recovery, it is helpful to take on a protective stance, to guard this newfound freedom from substance use from anything that might threaten it. In the early months of recovery, as individuals begin to adjust their mindset and lifestyle toward one of abstinence and restoration of wellness, there is, unfortunately, a heightened vulnerability to relapse to substance use. Being proactive, and safeguarding one’s recovery like a mama bear protects her cub, goes a long way toward preventing a slip.
8 Ways to Prevent Relapse
- Have an aftercare plan. Before winding up the treatment experience, make sure there is a solid aftercare plan in place. It is a mistake to think you are good to go after inpatient treatment. The treatment setting is very structured and safe, so transitioning back to regular life can be jarring. Upon discharge, have outpatient therapy sessions already scheduled, locate a recovery community where social support will be provided, and possibly consider staying in sober living for awhile until recovery feels more secure.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation is a highly effective tool for managing distracting thoughts and emotions in early recovery. Mindfulness helps train the mind to re-direct negative or stressful thoughts and feelings, and instead of ruminating on them learn to accept them without judgment. Practicing mindfulness can reduce feelings of stress, and depression, as well as reduce cravings.
- Avoid risk. During treatment, a detailed relapse prevention plan is drawn up. This exercise helps the individual to acknowledge the situations, people or places that may trigger relapse. Once these potential threats to recovery are identified, the individual will consider actionable steps they can take when exposed to a triggering situation. Sticking to the plan and avoiding known risks to recovery are essential in preventing relapse.
- Get regular exercise. One of the most productive ways to avoid relapse to substance use is to embark on a fitness journey alongside the recovery journey. Setting fitness goals helps motivate one toward sticking with the activity long term. Getting regular exercise has enormous physical and psychological benefits to someone in recovery. Physical activity helps produce brain chemicals, such as endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, that boost mood, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality.
- Have a trusted confidante. It is important to have someone to confide in. This can be an AA sponsor, a trusted friend or family member, or a psychotherapist. This person provides a safe, non-judgmental audience for someone to share, without reserve, any feelings of ambivalence about recovery, possible threats to recovery, or the signs of an impending relapse. As a result, this confidante can usher the person to a meeting, suggest a distracting activity, or to stay at his or her side as this threat passes.
- Establish a healthy routine. After treatment it is very helpful to create a new healthy lifestyle that will help support recovery efforts. This involves sticking to a schedule, such as rising at a certain time each morning and going to bed at the same time each night. It means overhauling the diet and increasing lean proteins, omega-3 fatty oils, nuts and seeds, fresh produce, and low-fat dairy while decreasing processed and sugary foods. It also means keeping good hygiene habits and taking care with one’s appearance.
- Get good sleep. Lack of sleep is actually a trigger for relapse. When the body is not effectively rested through quality sleep it impacts the mind, the mood, energy level, and productivity. To improve sleep quality is to help avoid relapse. This can be accomplished by getting at least 7 ½ hours of sleep each night, putting away electronic devices and phones an hour before bedtime, reducing caffeine use after 3 p.m., and avoiding heavy meals after 7 p.m.
- Access recovery tools. While in treatment, the individual will be introduced to several effective strategies that help reinforce recovery and avoid relapse. These recovery tools include such things as relaxation techniques (deep breathing exercises, massage, yoga, journaling, art therapy), conflict resolution skills, more effective communication techniques, and anger management skills. These tools should be accessed regularly until they become new habits, significantly reducing the risk of relapse.
Being on your toes is an important aspect of protecting recovery following inpatient treatment. These tips can help make a significant impact on the goal of achieving long-term recovery success.
Ashley Addiction Treatment provides compassionate support for individuals struggling with a substance use disorder. For more information about our luxury rehab program, please connect with us today at (866) 313-6307.