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Relapse Prevention

Relapse Prevention

Addiction is a health condition affecting over 21 million Americans, often impacting many aspects of a person’s life, from physical and mental health to careers, relationships, and finances. While substance use disorder (SUD) is treatable, recovery requires more than just quitting drugs or alcohol. Indeed, inpatient care only begins the ongoing process of staying sober. 

If you or someone you know has SUD, relapse prevention training can help treat your lifestyle to help you avoid returning to substance use. Keep reading to learn more about relapse prevention, including the causes and stages of relapse, as well as the importance of holistic relapse prevention techniques. 

What Is Relapse Prevention?

What Is Relapse Prevention?

Relapse prevention includes holistic treatments and techniques that can help a person avoid returning to substance use after being drug- or alcohol-free. Maintaining sobriety long-term is an uphill battle for many, and since substance use disorders are chronic, they won’t disappear entirely following treatment. 

Typically, stressors of everyday life can disrupt or derail recovery effectors. For instance, being unable to find work could cause people to turn to substances like alcohol to cope. Seeing old friends or being in places you associate with past drug use can also cause a person to relapse.

However, you must know relapsing once or twice is common and shouldn’t make you give up. It doesn’t mean that your treatment or recovery efforts have failed. Instead, relapse may indicate that the person requires additional or different forms of treatment.

Understanding relapse and your triggers are essential steps toward relapse prevention. Techniques are centered on a cognitive-behavioral approach, where people with substance use disorder identify their addiction triggers and work with a mental health professional to overcome them. 

Clients and their physicians will identify situations that place the person at a greater risk for relapse. These include both internal experiences — such as positive thoughts related to substance use, and external cues — people or places the person associates with substance use. Then, the patient and clinician work together to develop strategies to address the specific high-risk situations. Relapse prevention can also involve building healthy habits like exercise or therapeutic art to treat the person’s overall health. 

Addiction recovery is often a lifelong process that people who are drug or alcohol-free work on for the long term. Through effective coping skills, clients can increase their confidence to handle challenging situations without drugs or alcohol. 

Humans are complex — ultimately, relapse prevention aims to identify the deeper problems contributing to a person’s drug or alcohol use and establish methods to help them avoid returning to substances.

Common Causes of Relapse

Common Causes of Relapse

The recovery process from drug and alcohol addiction comes with various challenges, such as physical and emotional triggers. These cues can arise at any point in a person’s life, resulting in their craving for substances they’ve been trying to quit for good. Triggers can manifest in various ways depending on the person.

The most common causes of relapse include: 

  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, nausea, or fatigue
  • Post-acute withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety, poor sleep, or mood swings
  • Poor self-care, such as improper eating or sleeping habits
  • Poor stress-management skills
  • People, such as old friends with SUD 
  • Places you associate with your substance use
  • Objects that remind you of your substance use 
  • Uncomfortable emotions, such as hunger, anger, loneliness, or tiredness 
  • Relationship and intimacy issues that add stress
  • Isolation, which can give you too much time to be with your thoughts 
  • Pride and overconfidence, such as believing you don’t have a substance use problem or that you’ve overcome it

Some people might experience a range of emotions when seeing old friends and loved ones, which can cause them to desire a drink. Others may feel stressed or pressured to perform at school or work and become tempted to misuse stimulants. Whatever the cause, triggers are a natural part of recovery. Expecting them and planning effective coping mechanisms is the best defense against relapse.

Stages of Relapse

Stages of Relapse

To better understand relapse prevention, it’s essential to learn the stages of relapse. Relapse is a process, not an event, and it tends to start weeks to months before the event of physical relapse. The three stages are:

  • Emotional relapse: In this stage, you’re not thinking about returning to substance use. Instead, your emotions and behaviors set you up for a possible physical relapse. You may feel anxious, and angry or experience isolation to the point you aren’t asking for help or attending support meetings. 
  • Mental relapse: At this stage, you’re experiencing mental turbulence to the point where one part of you wants to relapse, but the other doesn’t. In mental relapse, you’re just thinking about using substances but not doing it. You may think about the places or people you associate with your substance use, glamorize your past addiction and hang out with old friends you associated with. At this stage, it becomes harder to make the right choices as the pull of addiction grows stronger.
  • Physical relapse: Once you start thinking about relapse, without the proper techniques, you can quickly spiral into physical relapse — seeking out and obtaining substances. It’s much more difficult to stop the process of relapse at this stage.

The Importance of Relapse Prevention

The following are some of the essential benefits of relapse prevention education:

1. Prevent Overdose

Relapse prevention education can help prevent overdose after treatment ends. It’s not uncommon for people who complete a treatment program to return to substances, though this behavior comes with a high risk of overdose as the client’s tolerance is often much lower than before treatment. In 2020, there were nearly 92,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. Relapse prevention techniques help avert overdoses to keep you safe.

2. Learn About Yourself and Your Triggers

Learn About Yourself and Your Triggers

Learning about the causes of your drug or alcohol use can help prevent future use. You can then use relapse prevention skills to combat those triggers and keep you safe. Learning about yourself is helpful for relapse prevention and identifying any mental health conditions that could impact your well-being and contribute to substance use. 

Studies show approximately 7.7 million people have co-occurring mental health disorders and SUDs. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, clients can receive treatment for health conditions that might trigger drug or alcohol use and learn coping techniques to manage symptoms. Therapy is also an excellent way to encourage growth as it helps identify emotions or thought processes that you might adjust to improve as a person.

3. Improve Overall Health and Wellness

Improve Overall Health and Wellness

Most relapse prevention skills include building new and healthy habits. Being able to take care of your body lends itself to healthy and sustainable relapse prevention. Relapse prevention often includes getting proper sleep and exercise, eating healthy, and participating in activities that are good for the mind and body, such as therapeutic art or being in nature.

Recreational activities can improve overall health and help people prepare for life after treatment. When you enter an addiction treatment center, you’ll create a routine focusing on self-care and activities promoting happiness and well-being.

4. Maintain a Life of Sobriety

Most importantly, relapse prevention techniques help you stay sober and achieve a happier, healthier lifestyle without substances. Healthy coping skills can help you grow and advance with a more positive, hopeful mindset.

The Evidence Behind Relapse Prevention

The Evidence Behind Relapse Prevention

Standard relapse prevention training has strong empirical support as a helpful intervention for substance use disorder. With its combination of structured individual therapies, support groups, and motivational interviewing, the techniques can effectively prevent or mitigate relapse. 

With relapse prevention, you’ll learn strategies to obtain social support, develop a plan for enjoyable sober activities, and problem-solve for high-risk situations or relapse if it occurs. Relapse prevention training is effective because it provides the following:

  • Aftercare: Treatment can be even more effective when clients are connected with aftercare programs, as these can hold them accountable and help them through tough times that could lead to relapse. Aftercare programs decrease the likelihood of relapse and provide intervention in the event it occurs. 
  • Comprehensive care: Professional treatment can manage both psychological and physical factors of addiction to promote a successful recovery. That’s why comprehensive addiction programs often include both therapeutic and pharmacological methods to promote and maintain recovery while working to reduce relapse and manage triggers. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective intervention for substance use disorder and essential for relapse prevention. 
  • Personalized treatment: Successful treatment plans are specifically tailored to the individual. Relapse prevention strategies consider your environment, motivation level, the severity of addiction, and co-occurring health conditions, among many other factors.
  • Support groups: Having a support system is also essential in relapse prevention. Relationships can play an important role in recovery, which is why treatment programs provide support groups and help build communication skills clients can take with them post-treatment.

How We Help You Create a Relapse Prevention Plan

How We Help You Create a Relapse Prevention Plan

While the addiction recovery process can feel isolating, you’ll find a team of addiction experts and counselors at Gateway Foundation eager to work with you. Our relapse prevention plan can help you get healthy and stay sober. When you enter our addiction treatment center, we’ll take the following steps to devise a personalized relapse prevention plan:

1. Assessment and Diagnosis

Assessment and Diagnosis

First, we’ll conduct an assessment to appraise your history. Our skilled counselors will determine factors that could lead to recovery stumbles. For instance, maybe you have a co-occurring mental health disorder. In this case, experts can provide a dual diagnosis and create a plan to address both diseases. A comprehensive treatment plan is essential to prevent relapse.

2. Create an Effective Plan

Create an Effective Plan

Next, we’ll work together to write a detailed relapse prevention plan. Essentially, we’ll map out your responses to triggering scenarios to develop effective techniques to help you in these situations.

For instance, you might plan to attend a support group meeting when feeling lonely. Similarly, you might list a friend to call in times you’re experiencing emotional pain.

Other emotional relapse prevention strategies might involve:

  • Relaxation and mindfulness: Meditation, deep breathing, and other mindfulness exercises can help you focus on the present and get out of your head when you feel overwhelmed or in distress.
  • Self-care: While helpful, treatment can sometimes feel emotionally and physically draining. To combat these emotions and get the most out of treatment, you might follow a self-care routine at the end of the day, such as participating in your favorite hobby or relaxing with a good book.

3. Build Sobriety Tools

Build Sobriety Tools

Next, our counselors will provide the tools you need to stay sober. You’ll also learn healthy alternatives to drugs for relapse prevention. Potential activities or hobbies you might incorporate into your routine at Gateway Foundation inpatient treatment include:

  • Journaling
  • Therapeutic arts
  • Sports and exercise
  • Group games
  • Hiking

In moments when you are thinking about relapse, it’s essential to have a sobriety toolbox. You can learn these necessary tools in addiction treatment and relapse prevention training. 

4. Recommend Aftercare Services

Recommend Aftercare Services

Lastly, we recommend aftercare services that offer a vital support resource for anyone recovering from addiction. We provide multiple options across our 16 U.S. locations, including:

  • 12-step recovery: 12-Step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are excellent support resources for people new to recovery. As part of your membership, you’ll work with others to stay sober, follow the 12 steps of recovery, and aim to meet important sobriety goals.
  • Alumni programs: Gateway Foundation is passionate about our aftercare alumni programs. These events bring former clients together to discuss recovery and the hopes for a great future. Alumni meetings are an excellent time for everyone to celebrate recovery.
  • Sober living access: For additional support from relapse triggers, clients can distance themselves from drug or alcohol addiction in a sober living home. The house will help you develop more structure and self-care practices as you build your support resources. Sometimes, group members from these sober living homes become an excellent source of support in the future.
  • Additional outpatient counseling: Sometimes, additional outpatient counseling is all it takes to keep you on the path to recovery. Following inpatient services, outpatient care can be a powerful form of relapse prevention. You can attend therapy programs at regularly scheduled times or on an as-needed basis to accommodate your schedule.
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Gateway Foundation’s Holistic Relapse Prevention Techniques

Gateway Foundation's Holistic Relapse Prevention Techniques

Filling your sobriety toolbox with various relapse prevention strategies is our mission. Before leaving treatment, we’re dedicated to preparing you for real life. We’ll help you develop solid techniques to rely on during crisis moments. Our staff will teach you how to avoid past enablers and old places that supported your substance use. You’ll learn to meet and maintain relationships with new people, hobbies, and aftercare groups to distract you from triggers.

Some of our holistic relapse prevention techniques include:

  • Establishing daily routine: First, Gateway Foundation will show you how to create structured and productive daily routines. For example, you might schedule recreational activities between work and school to lessen idle time and distract yourself from thoughts about substance use. 
  • Recreational activities: Participating in recreational activities at our treatment center can help you feel healthier, happier, and more optimistic about your life of sobriety. These activities assist mental health in preventing relapse and might include hiking, swimming, yoga, and more. 
  • Evidenced behavioral therapies: Our researched and evidenced-based therapies help address the underlying causes and drivers of addiction and give practical techniques to process and prevent relapse. Our compassionate and highly trained team can provide treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, or trauma therapy, depending on your needs.
  • Building healthy habits: At Gateway Foundation, we believe in comprehensive, holistic care to treat the entire person. Our team consists of physicians and health professionals who can get you on a healthy path to prevent relapse after treatment ends. Healthy habits can include eating right, getting proper sleep, and exercising.
  • Medical detox: Medication-assisted treatment is essential to safely remove substances from the body so you’re prepared for sobriety. Our health professionals will assist in this process when you enter our treatment center. This way, you can reduce and eliminate withdrawal symptoms that often lead to relapse. 
  • Support groups: Being around those who can hold you accountable is essential during recovery. In support groups, you’ll connect with others struggling with addiction, learn sobriety tips and help each other avoid relapse.

Ultimately, our treatment programs will prepare your mind, body, and spirit to withstand relapse triggers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Relapse Prevention

Below, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about relapse prevention:

1. What Are Some Relapse Warning Signs?

Fortunately, there are warning signs of relapse you can look out for before it can occur. These include:

  • You start isolating yourself from family or friends or your support system or missing AA or NA meetings. 
  • You stop taking care of yourself or notice you aren’t sleeping or eating well and neglecting your hygiene.
  • You begin experiencing more cravings.
  • You begin to experience emotions that disrupt your daily life, such as depression, stress, loneliness, or anger.
  • You begin finding yourself triggered by internal or external factors more than usual. 

2. What Do I Do if I Relapse? 

What Do I Do if I Relapse?

If you happen to relapse, remind yourself that the earlier you take action, the better. Judging yourself won’t help, so try acknowledging that you are not perfect and all humans make mistakes. What’s important is to take the necessary action to prevent yourself from a complete relapse. That might include attending a support meeting, making an appointment with your counselor, or talking to friends and family. 

If you feel your existing support system isn’t enough, consider returning to a treatment program for help.

3. What Are Some Early Relapse Prevention Tips?

If you believe you are in the beginning stage of relapse, there are several tips you can try to avoid advancing to the next stage. The most important one is self-care. Taking better care of yourself is essential to prevent feeling mentally or emotionally drained to the point you return to substance use. For instance, eating correctly and getting enough sleep can prevent exhaustion and the craving to drink or use substances. 

Asking for help is also essential. Never be afraid to turn to a close friend or family member who can help you through your anxieties. Having a support system is vital at this time and that’s why at Gateway Foundation, we provide aftercare programs that keep you connected to counselors, health providers, and peers in times of need. 

Build Relapse Prevention Skills at Gateway Foundation

Relapse prevention plans are essential to the addiction recovery process. If you or someone you know has substance use disorder, Gateway Foundation can help you through relapse prevention training.

We offer comprehensive treatment plans that include relapse prevention. After all, we are with you for life. Our highly skilled team can help you build sobriety tools you can use post-treatment. Through inpatient and outpatient care, you’ll receive medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapies that can be highly effective for reaching a successful recovery. 

To learn more about our programs and relapse prevention training, contact us today. 

Build Relapse Prevention Skills at Gateway Foundation