Like many people, you may be under the impression that completing inpatient treatment will cure your addiction. Unfortunately, addiction is a chronic disease. It is also an incredibly complex mental health issue.
Although inpatient rehab will give you the skills and tools that you need for keeping your recovery on track, you’ll have to make a concerted and lifelong effort to avoid relapse. There are a number of long-term lifestyle changes that you’ll have to make to mitigate and limit the risk of relapsing.
Preventing relapse after rehab requires a multi-pronged approach. This can include taking part in sober meetings, regularly meeting with addiction counselors, finding an accountability partner, and even enrolling in a formal relapse prevention program. All of these solutions can help you identify the warning signs of relapse.
What Does Relapse Prevention Mean?
When you join a relapse prevention program, you’ll meet with a counselor to talk about different triggers that you’re likely to encounter, and other risk factors that might affect your recovery. Together, the two of you will devise a list of strategies for avoidance, healthy coping, and safely exiting unhealthy situations. Relapse prevention programs typically last 12 weeks. Throughout this time, you’ll devise a detailed and needs-specific relapse prevention plan. This plan will be regularly revised based upon:
- The challenges you face
- New skills you develop
- Your strengths
- Your efforts to further engage with the outside world post-treatment
What Is a Relapse Prevention Plan?
Although relapse prevention programs take a formal and highly structured approach to prevent relapse events, there are actually many different forms of relapse prevention that recovering addicts can use. During your time in inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment, you’ll be encouraged to create a post-treatment support plan. This plan will include finding and maintaining stable housing, career development strategies, and tools for achieving financial health. It may even include resources for resolving any pressing legal issues that you’re facing.
These efforts are designed to both minimize and mitigate overwhelming stress. After all, you’re far more likely to relapse if you’re facing homelessness, can’t find a job, or have other problems that cause significant anxiety.
Rehab counselors also make sure that their clients aren’t entering into living environments that are rife with triggers and temptation. For example, you might not want to return home after your inpatient treatment is complete if you’ve been living with an enabler who has yet to seek counseling on their own. Returning home if there are other drug or alcohol users can also be risky. In instances like these, staying in a sober living facility may be the best choice. This type of transitional housing will give you the benefit of a safe, supportive environment as you move closer to being able to live on your own.
Whether relapse prevention plans are devised in inpatient treatment or during structured relapse prevention programs, they always define individual risk factors and give people strategies for overcoming them. A good relapse prevention plan will have everything from elements for ensuring good self-care to coping skills for keeping you mindful, grounded, and in control.
Strategies for Relapse Prevention
Stress is hardly the sole cause of addiction relapse. Sometimes boredom and malaise are equally pressing triggers. Relapse can even be the result of being in the wrong place while feeling hungry, excessively fatigued, angry, or lonely. When working on your relapse prevention plan, be sure to include these four important elements.
1. Diligent Self-Care
Recovering addicts are advised against letting themselves get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. The best way to remember these four common risk factors for relapse is the acronym H.A.L.T.
Self-care during recovery includes practicing good nutrition, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding long periods of time spent in isolation. During inpatient rehab, you’ll take part in stress management workshops, exercise classes, and other learning and self-help activities. The more successful you are in developing a stable and balanced schedule, the easier it will be to keep your emotions positive and your motivation levels high.
2. Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation is an excellent tool to include in your relapse prevention plan. Mindfulness meditation uses deep breathing and targeted focusing techniques to bring your thoughts and emotions into the present moment. This way, you aren’t being overwhelmed by the guilt, anxiety, or shame of your past, and you aren’t being confronted with fear or self-doubt concerning your future. Mindfulness meditation also helps people deal with their emotions when they’re confronted with high-stress triggers and other in-the-moment challenges.
3. Consider the Ending
Relapse occurs in a few distinct phases. The second of these phases is mental relapse. During a mental relapse, most people start fantasizing about drug and alcohol use. They often negotiate with themselves by imagining that they can use substances in a controlled and limited way. Although these thoughts can be incredibly convincing, they are completely wrong. A return to substance use in any form post-treatment is guaranteed to spiral out of control.
Taking the time to consider the end or to “play the tape through”, is often a great way to put these thoughts to a stop. Considering how even just a single-use event will ultimately impact your physical, mental, and emotional health can help you pull yourself back from the edge.
4. Join a Local Support Group
Inpatient addiction treatment should never mark the end of receiving outside recovery support. In fact, inpatient treatment is really just a good start. It creates a solid foundation for recovery. If you cannot take part in a structured relapse prevention program, join a support group. This is where many people find accountability partners and sober sponsors. Making these connections will ensure that you’re never alone when dealing with overwhelming temptation or stress.
At Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, we offer a variety of options in aftercare support. Whether you’ve attended an inpatient treatment program, our outpatient program, or our partial hospitalization program, you can always count on us to give you the continued help you need for keeping your recovery on track. No matter where you currently are in your recovery, call us today to learn more about how we can help you avoid relapse.