Addiction recovery is an incredibly trying time for every person who goes through it. Relapses are common for people throughout recovery, due to the changes in brain chemistry that are caused by substance abuse. The key to having a successful recovery is to learn coping mechanisms that work for you and help you repel the negative feelings that can spark cravings.
For those struggling with addiction, treatment is an ongoing process. Those who enter an addiction treatment program like ours at Renaissance Ranch quickly realize that recovery isn’t simply complete when the program ends – it continues long beyond then, part of the reason we’re so committed to our outpatient addiction treatment programs.
When someone recovering from addiction is in times of high stress or overwhelming emotions, these are high-risk periods for relapse. Along with staying in touch with sponsors and all support networks during these times – indeed, even increasing reliance on these support channels – here are a few tactics that can help avoid relapse when life gets overwhelming.
Don’t play the victim to yourself
First of all, even though addiction is a behavioral disease, and shame shouldn’t be utilized to push addicts towards positive behavior, this doesn’t mean that pity is any more effective of a tool. In particular, recovering addicts shouldn’t turn to self pity during their recovery. Self pity can make a person feel powerless, which undermines the foundation of self-esteem and empowerment that is needed to effectively live a life of sobriety.
Avoid Too Many Changes
For someone who has recently detoxed, adjusting to sobriety can be a major transition. Many people will need at least a year before they can make other big life changes, such as starting a new career or getting married.
Of course, it isn’t always possible to ward of all possible changes in life – some come no matter what we do. But emphasizing small routines, family time and leisure activities can go a long way structure-wise, and can help you adjust to bigger changes.
Always stay in touch with a recovery support network, especially during overwhelming times. These people are here to help, and getting some of the weight of what’s going on off onto them might help cravings or relapse potential.
Learn relaxation methods
Feelings of stress or anxiety are incredibly common triggers for people who have suffered from substance abuse. Oftentimes, substance abuse was a way for an addict to deal with these negative emotions. For this reason, you need to find a way to break out of patterns of stress and anxiety by using positive relaxation methods. These methods will be different for every person. Try learning what sorts of things help you calm down and regain control of your thoughts. A good starting place might be learning some helpful breathing exercises, which is a meditative technique.
Stay in touch with your full physical health profile, as this will help with the stress of transitions. People who are fatigued, undernourished or out of shape will be more vulnerable to relapse and physical illness, and this will create a vicious cycle of stress by lowering thinking and concentration capabilities. Try to get enough sleep, stay active and eat a fresh, healthy diet. Also look to work in periods of relaxation throughout your average day.
Learn what high-risk situations are for you
In order to combat cravings, you need to learn what things are liable to spark those cravings, for you. Typically, this means self-reflecting and determining what a high-risk situation looks like in your mind. For people who engaged in substance abuse in social settings, certain parties or social gatherings with specific people might resemble a high-risk situation. Other times, being alone for extended periods of time without anything to do might be a triggering situation that causes a person’s thoughts to spiral in a dangerous way.
Take a careful, realistic look at what’s consuming your life, and which of those activities are truly necessary. Are there chores you can delegate, or projects you can opt out of? Can you reduce stress through simple reduction of your schedule in certain areas? Non-essential stressors in your life can be evaluated and, in some cases, removed for now.