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Have you ever done something really embarrassing in front of someone you respect? Shame can stick with you long after the event is over. In addiction recovery, people will often experience a relapse, which can cause feelings of intense shame. Shame can impede healing, further perpetuating the cycle of relapse. However, there are steps you can take before a relapse to prevent you from being tempted to use again. 

Defining Relapse in Addiction Recovery

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a lapse as “a slight error due to forgetfulness or inattention.” However, a relapse is defined as the “reoccurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement.”

When you have substance use disorder (SUD), both lapses and relapses can occur. If you find yourself returning to the use of alcohol or other drugs one time, it can be identified as a lapse. However, if you return to your old and chronic substance-using habits, it is considered a relapse.

Understanding Why You May Relapse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), SUDs “are treatable, chronic diseases characterized by a problematic pattern of use of a substance or substances leading to impairments in health, social function, and control over substance use.” When you have used substances for a long period, they begin to alter your brain chemistry.

Relapse can be due to the chemical changes in your brain, causing you to experience uncontrollable cravings that urge you to use. Additionally, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Relapse rates for drug use are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses,” such as diabetes or asthma. Therefore, relapse is always possible.

There are many reasons you may relapse, including:

  • Being triggered by emotions or people
  • Being in the wrong treatment program
  • Not committing to your sobriety

Warning Signs of Relapse in Addiction Recovery

Every person in addiction recovery should be aware of their triggers so they can prepare for them ahead of time. Triggers, such as things that serve as reminders of past adverse events, can occur daily and can happen anywhere.

Unfortunately, even in addiction treatment, you may get triggered by other clients and the stories they may share. While you may have individual warning signs, here are five common warning signs you may be close to a relapse: 

  1. Thinking about/fantasizing about past substance use
  2. Resisting help or denying that you need help
  3. Revisiting people and places where you used substances
  4. Not following through with positive life changes
  5. Stopping treatment, medication, or going to recovery programs

5 Tips to Prevent a Relapse in Addiction Recovery

If you are fearful of relapse or think you may be close to one, here are five suggestions to help prevent you from using drugs or alcohol while in recovery:

#1. Avoid Triggering Situations

You can reduce your risk of relapse by avoiding situations you know will trigger you. Thinking about drugs and alcohol can be dangerous enough. However, going to places where you have used substances or are reminded of substance use can further harm your sobriety.

Moreover, you may not be ready to be in atmospheres where substances will be used by others. If that is your case, it is important to know that you can learn to have fun without alcohol and other drugs. There are plenty of daytime events and activities, such as a morning farmers market or renting paddle boards with a friend, that you can do instead of going to events with substances.

#2. Focus on New Friendships

In addiction recovery, you will most likely make changes to your lifestyle and social circles. This is because when you are in active addiction, you likely surrounded yourself with people that would enable or join your substance use. 

Starting recovery is an opportunity to meet new friends. However, it is important you start seeking people who you want in your new life and who will understand your SUD. By focusing on new and healthy friendships, you can put your focus on healing and growth in recovery.

#3. Rely on Peer Support

While in addiction recovery, you will most likely participate in treatment. When in treatment, you will meet others who are seeking recovery from SUD. It can be helpful to talk to and be around peers who understand living with addiction. Participating in programs such as sober living or partial hospitalization programs (PHP) will allow you to be surrounded by other peers in recovery for the majority of your days. In moments of struggle, you can turn to them for support. 

Peers can provide understanding as well as inspire sobriety and recovery. When you are struggling with thoughts or triggers, support from a peer can help you process them and respond to them in a way that prioritizes your sobriety.

#4. Focus on Yourself

When you are in addiction recovery, your number one focus should be on healing and getting better. It can be hard not to be present or available to friends and family members. However, remember that drugs and alcohol have chemically altered your brain and body. Therefore, you deserve the space and time to heal. Taking space from family and friends can be beneficial to a sustainable recovery, especially if those family or friends added to your addiction. 

#5. Find Your Reason for Recovery

If you are ever doubting why you are in recovery, you can turn to your reasons for recovery. It is important to make personal reasons for wanting to get sober, such as wanting a better life for yourself. 

A lot of people who seek addiction treatment do so because they feel they have hit rock bottom; their lowest point in life. For some people, that lowest point was so difficult it becomes a reason to not use substances again. If you find yourself increasingly thinking about relapsing, you can reflect on those feelings you had at rock bottom and the reasons you got sober to help you avoid relapse.

Learning to manage your thoughts, emotions, and triggers is part of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. You do not need to struggle alone anymore! When you choose Lighthouse Recovery Texas, our experienced and expert staff are there to support you through addiction treatment. From the initial assessment, until you finish your treatment plan, our staff will be there to help you along the way. With over a combined hundred years working in the clinical and therapeutic field, you can trust our Lighthouse Recovery staff with your recovery. We offer a number of treatment program options. Contact us at (214) 396-0259 to find out how we can help on your recovery journey!