Tips for Relapse Prevention

If you are a recovering alcoholic or substance abuser, you know that relapse is a not-uncommon occurrence. While it’s important to recognize this fact, there are things you can do proactively to prevent falling into relapse.

  • Identify high-risk situations – You know your trigger situations – being with certain friends or groups, or particular locations such as a former hangout (bar, restaurant, sporting location, etc.). Make a list of them on paper. Devise a plan with back-up strategies for how you can deal with these high-risk situations in advance. That way, when you find yourself in one, you’ll automatically know what to do. This confidence of already knowing your “escape” plan will help you take the positive, necessary steps so you don’t relapse.
  • Handle your problems and feelings as they occur – Each day, as you experience negative – or positive – feelings and problems, deal with them on a here and now basis. This way, you won’t allow stresses to build up and explode, with the potential results being relapse.
  • Keep your life in balance – Humans need stasis, or balance, in order to be fully productive. You can help reduce stress and find enjoyment with your family and friends by maintaining a balance – without the need for alcohol and drugs.
  • Enlist support and trust – Recognize that you can’t do it alone. Enlist the support and trust of your family, friends, coworkers, counselors. They can help you to deal with your problems, feelings and stress, support your goals, and be on the lookout for warning signs that suggest possible relapse.
  • Take better care of yourself – The tendency to relapse increases if you’re not sleeping well or taking proper care of your body and your emotions. You may feel exhausted and just want to escape. If you’ve allowed stress to build up and haven’t engaged in self-relaxation techniques (such as meditation, yoga, exercise) you may begin to feel isolated. The temptation to use (alcohol or drugs) mounts, and you could relapse. By taking better care of yourself, you help to minimize the likelihood of falling back into your old ways.
  • How to deal with mental urges – What goes on in your mind can often lead you astray. These mental urges include lying about your past behavior, glamorizing your using experiences, thinking about people, places and things from the time you were using drugs and alcohol, hanging out with your former user network, fantasizing about using, imagining your own relapse and planning your relapse according to the schedules of those around you.
  • First, tell a trusted person you’re having feelings about using. Just by talking it out, the urge to use will begin to minimize or disappear. You’re not alone, and that’s a big first step.
  • Wait for half an hour – Most urges last between 15-30 minutes. If you can get through the 30 minutes, you’ll likely get past the urge.
  • Engage in distractions – Get your mind off your urges by doing something. Take a hike or walk. See a friend for lunch or go to a meeting. Do anything other than just sit there and allow your urges to fester and compel you to satisfy them.
  • Relax – When you’re tense, your urge to drink or do drugs has greater opportunity to take over your resolve. Tense feelings foster the tendency to do what is familiar and wrong (like picking up that drink or using), and not what is new behavior that’s right for your new lifestyle. Whatever relaxes you and is a positive activity, get involved at the first sign you feel tense.
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