Drug and Alcohol Addiction Relapse: What Should I Do?

Statistically speaking, if you are in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, there is a good chance that you will relapse at some point in your life. If it does happen, it doesn’t mean that you have failed in your recovery. It does mean that you will likely have to go through the process of becoming sober all over again.

While there is no surefire way to prevent a relapse from drug or alcohol addiction, there are some triggers you can keep an eye out for to lessen the risk of you relapsing.

Addiction Relapse Triggers

Relapse triggers are unique for each person in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction. Knowing what your own triggers are will help you to spot the warning signs of a possible relapse. Common relapse triggers include the following:

  • Sudden lifestyle changes, including losing a job or ending a relationship
  • Spending time with friends who are still abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Hanging out in places where you used to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Avoiding needed support from family, friends, or support groups
  • Changing your routine
  • Neglecting to deal with personal problems

Through journaling or other forms of recordkeeping, people in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction should keep some sort of record of what their previous triggers have been in order to better identify them in the future. They should enlist the help of friends and family to keep an eye out for known triggers as well so that the person in recovery can be warned and take appropriate action.

What to Do if You Relapse

If you are aware of your relapse triggers, then you should have some idea of when you are about to relapse on drugs or alcohol. If you feel a relapse coming on, try the following things to help prevent it from occurring or getting worse:

  • Get help. Whether it’s therapy, talking with friends or family for support, going to an addiction treatment center, or attending an Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meeting, take action to get help as soon as you feel like you are relapsing. The sooner you get help, the better your chance of minimizing the length and severity of your relapse.  
  • Limit temptation. If you might engage in compulsive behaviors when you relapse, limit your access to them. Give a trusted friend or family member keys to your car, your credit and debit cards, and whatever else may tempt you during a relapse. Having no access to these things will also help minimize the damage associated with a relapse.
  • Revisit your relapse-prevention plan. You likely developed a relapse-prevention plan when you went through addiction treatment. If you find yourself tempted to relapse, or relapsing, it is a good idea to go over that plan with your therapist and modify it to prevent a future relapse.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. A relapse isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t have to be disastrous or damaging. The worst thing you can do if you relapse is to feel like you’re a failure and that you won’t be able to get sober again. Know that you can get the help you need to get past your relapse and back on the path to sobriety.

Tags: addiction treatment, alcohol relapse, drug relapse, relapse prevention

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