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Tips for Avoiding Addiction Relapse

When you relapse into drug or alcohol addiction, it’s not a single moment. Several things over the course of days, weeks, or even months led to that point. Relapse starts subconsciously on an emotional level before it progresses to the mental stage. Once you’ve begun considering using again, it’s only a matter of time before you’re on the brink of falling into old habits. That’s why it’s important to recognize addiction relapse triggers so you can have strategies in place to deal with them before relapse advances to the physical stage.

Identifying Addiction Relapse Triggers

Everyone is different. Your relapse triggers may vary, too. These are some of the more common ones you might encounter, but a good rehabilitation program can help you zero in on your most vulnerable areas.

  • Withdrawals are probably the first relapse trigger everyone encounters. Depending on several factors, these can be more intense for some individuals, but rest assured, they are temporary.
  • Stress or anxiety may have been the primary factor in why you started using it in the first place. While you’re in a recovery program, you’ll learn healthier coping methods.
  • People, places, or things you associate with your addiction – whether you realize the associations or not – can trigger relapses, as well.
  • Isolation cuts off bad influences, but it separates you from your support structure, too. It would be best if you kept healthy connections to grow and stay sober.
  • Unhealthy relationships or volatile emotional states can push you back towards using. Don’t submit yourself to abuse or toxic relationships. If you’re struggling with anger or loneliness, reach out to a friend, a loved one, or a sponsor who can provide positive emotional support.
  • Pride or overconfidence in your resolve can sabotage your recovery. If you’re struggling with any of the triggers above or having difficulty managing something else, recognize that you need help and reach out.

The First Stage of Addiction Relapse: Emotional

The beginning of a relapse takes place behind the scenes. You’re not thinking about a drink or a hit. Maybe your sleep routine is out of whack, or you’ve picked up some bad dietary habits. These things can throw your body out of rhythm, leading towards the next stage of relapse if you don’t address them now. Other signs of emotional relapse include:

  • Anger or irritability
  • Mood Swings
  • Defensiveness
  • Isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Skipping meetings

The Second Stage of Addiction Relapse: Mental

If you miss the emotional symptoms, they can wear you down. Once you feel isolated and exhausted, your thoughts might begin to wander to unhealthy places. At the beginning of mental relapse, you’re still not consciously considering using, but if left unchecked, that’s where it can lead. It can progress from a passing thought to a full-on battle raging inside your mind. That’s why you need to be on the lookout for these warning signs:

  • Seeking the company of friends who still use
  • Revisiting places that remind you of your addiction
  • Lying to yourself and others about your struggle
  • Romanticizing your past substance abuse
  • Actively planning how you might go about using it again.

What do you do if you find yourself here?

  • Ask for help. Confiding in a loved one, a friend, a counselor, or a sponsor can relieve some of your internal pressure, and you won’t feel so alone in your struggle.
  • Take it to step by step. You don’t have to be sober for the rest of your life at the moment you’re dealing with urges. Hold out for 30 minutes. If the urge doesn’t pass, give yourself an hour or two. Recovery is a process, and it takes time.
  • Do something. Anything! Exercise, go for a walk, take up a new hobby or go to a meeting. If you occupy your mind and body with other, healthier activities, it’s harder to fall back into old habits.
  • Consider what comes next. If you’re fantasizing about using, don’t stop the fantasy at the act. Think about the consequences that follow. Addiction is a disease that has caused you harm. Don’t offer it a chance to do more.

The Final Stage of Addiction Relapse: Physical

It’s possible to make it all the way to the bar and stop just short of taking a drink. However, it’s much harder to turn back at that point. This is not a process you want to repeat because it can eventually wear you down. At Cycles of Change, our addiction experts can help you identify your relapse triggers and how to handle them. You’ll learn more about the stages of relapse as well as techniques for finding your way back on the path to recovery. You are not alone on this journey. We are here for you.


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