By – Alyssa Craig
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 40-60 percent of recovering addicts fall into relapse. With this being such a common occurrence, the thought of recovery can seem discouraging. In order to prevent this, it is first important to understand the triggers that lead to relapse.
It is crucial to be aware of the people, events, dates, locations and even smells that you associate with your addictive behavior. Keep in mind that even happy events can be triggers, as they can lead to a false sense of calmness and confidence that may lead to you thinking you can handle more than you actually can.
If you find yourself in a situation, whether with a person or in a location, where you can easily acquire the object of your addiction, you are more likely to experience a relapse.
Feelings such as frustration, anger, loneliness, anxiety, and depression can quickly cause a downward spiral for many recovering addicts.
This is the strongest of all the triggers you may experience. Often, people with an addiction have developed the habit of using their addictive behavior as a way to either avoid or cope with stress. Experiencing stress can often lead to cravings for former addictive habits. Unfortunately, some of these triggers are not completely avoidable. Everyone encounters stressful situations throughout the course of the day or the week. You may not be expecting to run into a situation that reminds you of your addiction but suddenly you are faced with the potential for relapse. What can you do to prevent this?
First, as mentioned here it is important to identify all possible triggers, both those you can actively avoid or those that may unexpectedly present themselves. From here, you can set up a plan for how you can handle each individual situation. Do you call a family member or a friend to talk to you or even ask them to come remove you from the situation? Do you turn down invitations for events you know may be toxic to your recovery? Once you have a plan in place, you will no longer be caught completely off guard and be able to respond quickly and appropriately to avoid relapse.
Next, make sure that you have the level of support that you need when you are at your lowest, not at your best. As the recovery process continues you may feel that you can take on more and then find yourself in a slippery situation. Often, therapy is a great resource for many people to navigate the recovery process and keep you on track. Your therapist will also be able to help you determine if you have any mental health issues that may halt or hinder your progress. It is important to realize that relapse is not synonymous with failure. There are many lessons to be learned through relapse that can help you to become stronger and reduce the risk of it happening again. A few of these tactics are to respond immediately and correct your behavior, build a better support system if necessary, and find a way to replace the unhealthy behavior with a healthy one.
Advice for Family Members and Friends
If you are a family member or close friend, it can be very difficult to watch your loved one relapse after making progress with their addictive behavior. While also being a support to them as they go through this process, you can also be on the lookout for behaviors they may not be aware of that are often gateways to relapse. Here are some things you can watch for to assist in their recovery:
Often when recovering addicts are slipping from recovery, they start to act more like when they are taking part in their addictive behaviors. This can often lead to them becoming more moody and acting in a more selfish manner.
Stop Going to Support Groups
One of the great resources for a recovering addict is participating in support groups such as a 12-step program. If your loved one is part of one of these support groups and they stop attending their meetings, especially when they have not finished the process, be aware and approach them about continuing their progress.
You may find that as you approach them about their behavior, they will become defensive. This is a sign they may be relapsing or considering a relapse. Find a way to talk with them in such a way that they do not feel attacked. A good way to go about this is to also be aware of their triggers and go over them to see if they have been exposed to anything that may be leading to regression.
Whether you are the one in recovery or it is someone close to you, it is important to understand that relapse is often part of the recovery process but it is not the end. Through continued support, love, and dedication full recovery can be a very real part of the future and help you build the life you deserve.
Images courtesy of desertoasisrecovery
Alyssa Craig is a Salt Lake City native who loves hiking in the mountains, running, frozen yogurt, and quick wit. She is a professional writer and loves perusing the many posts in the blogosphere. In her free time, you can find her escaping the world on her hammock or watching re-runs of “Friends”.