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Relapse Prevention Skills To Have

Posted by arizonarecover on January 30, 2020

Sobriety can be a very fragile thing. Even if a person goes through years of sobriety, they could still fall victim to relapse. This is when a person falls back into their old habits of drug or alcohol abuse after a period of abstinence. Of course, for anyone looking to live a life free of substance dependency, this is not an ideal thing to happen.  People don’t want to be so dependent on something that controls nearly every aspect of their lives. Unfortunately, people are not always able to abstain from these kinds of temptations. However, for those who are actively abstaining from relapse temptations, they have likely developed strong relapse prevention skills. To better understand what these skills are, we need to first take a deeper look at what relapse is and how it happens.

What is Relapse? How Does It Happen?

As most of us know, recovery is a process focused on personal development and growth. This kind of growth cannot happen overnight, it happens slowly over time. A common phrase most recovering addicts live by is “one day at a time”, meaning they take each step in recovery one day at a time. Progress can feel slow at times but they remain in the “one day at a time” mindset so that they know what they’re doing is working and they will eventually get to a point where they are 100% confident in their sobriety. For some people, it can be hard to abstain from their substance of choice.

The individuals who have a tougher time abstaining fall into what we call relapse. This is when a person is abstinent from their substance of choice for a period of time, but fall victim to temptation, causing them to fall back into their old habits. For someone on the outside looking in, it can be hard to understand why this happens, so let us help you understand. Here are some of the most common reasons why a person relapses:

  • Stress: If a recovering addict is ill-equipped to deal with stress, they will surely seek out substances as a form of coping.
  • Boredom: Sometimes, when a recovering addict is bored, they may be tempted to use substances again in an effort to fill up their free time.
  • Extreme Emotions (Anger/Anxiety/Depression): Similar to stress, if a recovering addict is not prepared to face mental fatigue through anxiety, depression, or anger, they may seek out drugs or alcohol as a way of coping. They may have used these things in the past to cope with anxiety, depression, or even anger. 
  • Environmental Triggers: These triggers can be anything from a person to a place. Smells, people, locations, weather, etc. can all trigger a person’s relapse. Anything that can be remotely associated with their past habits can trigger them into substance abuse if they are not equipped to handle them. 

Now that we have a better understanding of what relapse is and how it happens, it’s time to discuss the top skills every recovering addict needs in order to prevent any future relapse.

Top Prevention Skills

Skill #1: Self-care

Self-care is something that every recovering addict needs in their daily routine. You may see posts all over Instagram saying stuff like “take time for yourself today” or “it’s okay to slow down”. Though they may sound cheesy and corny to you, these statements carry a lot of legitimacy to them. Because we live in such a fast-paced society, it’s easy for us to get distracted with our daily lives and forget to truly take care of ourselves. When was the last time you took a moment to slow down and just breathe? These kinds of behaviors are essential for recovering addicts because their sobriety is tested every day. Recovery is all about treating your body right, it doesn’t have to stop and drug/alcohol abstinence. Eat healthier, get out in the sun, take time to meditate, exercise more, anything that makes you feel good!

Skill #2: Identify Triggers

Triggers, as we have already mentioned, are some of the biggest reasons for addiction relapse. Triggers essentially overwhelm a recovering addict to the point where they feel as though they need to go back to drugs or alcohol in order to stop the overwhelming sensations they are experiencing. One of the best things for any addict to do is identify what those triggers are before they even leave their recovery center. This is typically done through therapy or some other kind of addiction recovery service. 

Skill #3: HALT

HALT is an acronym used by many people going through addiction recovery. The acronym stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired”. These three symptoms are all too common among recovering addicts and can actually cause them to relapse. HALT helps the person stop and ask themselves if they are experiencing cravings to use again because of these things. It makes a person stop and wonder if they really want to use or if they are just feeling hungry, angry, alone, or fatigued.

Skill #4: Ongoing Support

One thing every recovering addict needs in their time through recovery is ongoing support. This can be in the form of individual therapy, group therapy, or accountability partners. Having a strong and ongoing support system can help ground a recovering addict of they start to feel like they are being lifted from their sobriety. Yes, family members can show great support, but it can be hard for them to relate to your struggles. That is why it’s important to have people in your support system that can relate to your struggles so you don’t feel alone.

Skill #5: Cut Out Toxic Relationships

Addiction recovery is all about improving your life and how you live it; it’s about living healthier by any means possible. One of the biggest obstacles in a person’s excursion to living a better life is toxic relationships. Drugs and alcohol can be difficult things to let go of, but so can relationships. Toxic relationships can create serious roadblocks to recovery for those trying to live a life in sobriety. This can be a family member, girlfriend, boyfriend, or friend who can cause recovering addicts trouble in their walks through sobriety. Through therapy, a person can successfully identify whether or not a relationship is toxic and if they should seek amends or cut it out entirely.

With these skills under a person’s belt, they can successfully live a life in sobriety. Without them, relapse is an inevitable thing. In order to prevent such a tragic occurrence, recovering addicts need to develop these skills and many others. Sobriety can be a fragile thing, but when these skills are developed, no trigger could ever cause a person to relapse again.