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Relapse Prevention Skills

Utilizing relapse prevention skills can assist a former drug rehab patient in the process of maintaining their sobriety. It is important to note that addicts do not recover from a drug or alcohol addiction simply because they stop using, but by making life-style changes that are incompatible with their former destructive behaviors. Individuals who wish to maintain long term abstinence must take the time to identify the people, places, and things that could possibly play a part in jeopardizing their long term sobriety. Relapse back into drug and alcohol use has often been reported to occur with an alarming frequency for great number of individuals that are newly recovering addicts; therefore, it is especially important to develop a number of effective relapse prevention skills that will decrease the possibility of a drug or alcohol relapse.

Relapses usually take place when an individual that is in recovery for addiction begins to fall back into established behavioral patterns that act as a trigger for the former drug rehab patient to start using drugs or alcohol again. Developing a list of quality relapse prevention skills can be one of the most important steps that a person who is recovering from addiction can take, in terms of preventing a drug or alcohol relapse. This does not mean that a person who is recovering from an addiction has to change every single aspect of their lives, but they will continue to be more vulnerable to a relapse until they are on high alert for the particular things that they must let go of. When a former addict tries to hold onto their old life, the greater their chances will be of experiencing a drug or alcohol relapse.

Here is a list of Relapse Prevention Skills that could be extremely useful in helping a former addict to maintain their long term sobriety:

Learning to identify drug or alcohol relapse triggers-One of the most useful relapse prevention skills that a person who is recovering from addiction can learn is how to be able to effectively identify relapse triggers. Simply stated, a relapse trigger is any person, place, thing, or circumstances that remind a person in recovery of their prior drug or alcohol use. It is important to recognize that there are triggers that can be easily avoided, such as a former alcoholic going to a bar; but there are others, that cannot be completely avoided, such as the colicky newborn that cries throughout the night.

In terms of the people, places, things, and circumstances that can be avoided, a former drug rehab patient should be overly cautious in avoiding them. For the circumstances, people, places, and things that cannot be avoided, the best possible solution is to set boundaries, rules and limitations; additionally, it is important to play these types of situations through so that you will have a safety valve or an escape plan in place when a drug or alcohol craving is stimulated. Drug or alcohol relapse triggers can generally be broken down into four distinct categories;

  • Any particular feeling, place, person, or circumstances that serves as a reminder of alcohol or drug use in the past.
  • Any person, place, feeling or circumstances that remind a former drug rehab patient of emotional trauma.
  • Any particular situation where a former addict is going to be exposed to drugs or alcohol.
  • Being in a place that generates high levels of stress and anxiety for the former addict.

Learn how to identify and manage drug or alcohol cravings-One of the most important relapse prevention skills that a recovering addict needs to develop is how to successfully manage the thoughts that are related to using drugs or alcohol that will inevitably occur during the substance abuse recovery process. The person that is recovering from addiction must develop skills that will help them to identify these cravings and gain the tools that are necessary to help them to manage in order to be able to be successful at preventing a drug or alcohol relapse. It is important for a former addict to realize that these intense cravings will eventually begin to decrease in frequency and intensity over time. Some healthy responses to drug or alcohol cravings may be going for a walk, going to a meeting, waiting the craving out without giving into it; additionally, utilizing breathing exercises and other relapse prevention techniques can also go a long way in fighting the natural urges most former addicts will inevitably experience. Sometimes just calling someone from your support network that you can trust can be one of the strongest ways that an addict can be successful at arming themselves against a relapse.

Maintaining a high motivational level- One of the most helpful drug or alcohol relapse prevention skills that a person who is recovering from addiction can utilize is to make maintaining their sobriety their number one priority; this action will go a long way in ensuring that a former addict's level of motivation towards their goal of sobriety remains consistently high. Maintaining high motivation levels includes having a healthy level of self-confidence; if a person that is recovering from addiction does not have confidence in their ability to remain abstinent, this will decrease their level of motivation in terms of continuing to work towards that goal.

Learning how to identify and process the emotions that are related to drug or alcohol triggers-One of the most vital relapse prevention skills that a former drug rehab patient can develop is how to handle the emotions that drug or alcohol triggers will generate. Unfortunately, in terms of relapse prevention, the main focus in the substance abuse recovery process is generally related to avoiding the people, places, and things that could be potential drug or alcohol triggers. It would be extremely beneficial if a great deal more time would be spent on educating individuals that are in recovery for substance abuse, in relation to how to process the powerful emotions that are generated by these substance abuse triggers.

Develop healthy coping skills-Because individuals that are in the initial stages or recovery will often still be relying on the dysfunctional coping skills that they developed in order to protect their drug or alcohol use, one of the most important relapse prevention skills that a former addict can develop are new and healthier coping skills. Some common examples of the life skills that may need some work may include helping the former addict to be able to maintain healthy and honest communication, and helping them to relearn many of their basic social skills.

Learning how to stop addictive thought processes before a relapse incident turns into a case of full blown addiction-Unfortunately; many people that are in the early stages of the drug or alcohol recovery process will maintain abstinence for a period of time and then will have an episode of using. One of the most vital relapse prevention skills that a person can learn is to be able to effectively stop the addictive thought processes in their tracks, so that one incident does not cause the former addict to continue their addictive thinking; this type of thinking that may kick in are thoughts such as "it's all over, I've blown it" or "see, I really can't do this". At this point, the former addict will be at a crossroads; one fork in the road will lead to addictive thinking that leads right back to full-blown addiction; the other fork in the road will lead to the person in recovery realizing that they have definitely made a mistake, but that all is not lost.

In order for a drug or alcohol relapse not to develop into a case of full-blown addiction, a former addict needs to immediately tell someone in their support network; this person can be their sponsor, their drug rehab aftercare counselor, or a trustworthy friend. Together, the individual in recovery and the person that they have chosen to confide in must band together to put a new plan in place that will be able to meet the more immediate goals of stopping the use of drugs or alcohol. Moving forward, one of the most vital relapse prevention skills that can be utilized is taking a close look at what caused the individual in recovery to experience the relapse in the first place.

Avoiding potentially high risk situations-One of the most important relapse prevention skills to develop is how to take an inventory at the end of every single day to reflect on what things are working best in terms of a quality drug or alcohol prevention aftercare program; this can include a former addict looking at whether they have maintained a balanced diet and exercise program. Other factors that an individual that is recovering from addiction should consider is if they woke up feeling rested because they have gotten enough sleep or if they went to bed after midnight because they stayed up to watch the end of a football game; additionally, the former addict may have proceeded to toss and turn in their bed because you were so angry that your team lost within the final seconds of the game. The reason that these particular circumstances are vital to a former addict in terms of relapse prevention, is because being hungry, angry or tired are often considered to be high risk situations that can lead to intense cravings at the end of the day.

It is virtually impossible to avoid all of these high risk situations, but, if you are acutely aware of them, they won't catch be able to catch you totally off guard. By taking better care of yourself through eating a healthy diet, getting the proper amount of rest that you need, and keeping anger at bay, you will be better able to prevent a small craving at the end of the day from developing into a drug or alcohol relapse.

Learn how to relax-One of the most significant relapse prevention skills that should be developed by a former addict are learning how to relax. One of the main reasons that people begin to use alcohol and drugs in the first place is because they want to escape, relax, or they are rewarding themselves at the end of a stressful day; in other words people most often use drugs and alcohol to relieve tension. In the substance abuse recovery process, a former drug rehab patient will need to change the way that they relieve tension. Relaxation and rewards are essential coping skills that are needed for a happy life, but most individuals who become addicted to drugs and alcohol have not learned how to do these things without using.

Because relaxation is essential to the drug or alcohol addiction recovery process, a former addict must learn specific ways to begin to relax and reward themselves at the end of the day. A person in recovery can accomplish this through developing simple relapse prevention skills that include going for a walk, soaking in a bubble bath, or meditating at the end of a long day; utilizing any of these or a combination of them all will help a person that is recovering from an addiction problem to be able to reward themselves, so that they can relax and escape, in order to turn off the chatter in their minds. It is important to note that numerous studies have indicated that relaxation reduces the risk of a drug or alcohol relapse in a recovering individual.

Learning to be honest and completely transparent- Maintaining any type of an addiction requires lying; conversely, one of the most important relapse prevention skills that a person in recovery should develop is learning how to be completely honest. Unfortunately, by the time an individual has developed an addiction to drugs or alcohol, lying becomes an almost automatic behavior. In recovery, a former addict learns that lying will make them feel bad, which will make them want to escape; thus, creating a high risk environment, which could potentially lead to relapse.