When attempting to achieve long-term recovery, addicts and alcoholics must formulate two types of plans for relapse prevention. The first type of plan is situational. How will you deal with peer pressure or cravings when they arise? The second type of plan is proactive. What can you do every day to prevent cravings and maintain a strong program of recovery?
Daily relapse prevention methods are not necessarily more or less important than situational relapse prevention methods, but they are certainly a necessity. With relapse rates ranging from 40% to 60% according to national statistics, substance users must safeguard their sobriety in any way possible. The following are just five of the many relapse prevention methods that may prove useful, provided you practice them daily.
Method 1 – Use Your Support Network
Attending meetings and keeping in contact with a sponsor or trusted member of your support network are among the most commonly cited relapse prevention methods around. Unfortunately, many people consider these methods situational. They feel they can get by with sporadic meeting attendance, and only plan to call someone if they are on the verge of using.
The problem with using your support network in this fashion is that it creates a sense of burden. When an individual does not incorporate meetings or supportive communication into their daily routine, they will be less comfortable engaging in these practices when actually needed. A 2006 study on alcoholism showed that those who failed to obtain help were much more prone to relapse than those who attended meetings regularly or became part of a supportive treatment community. Using your support network only when absolutely needed may still prove successful as a method of delaying your relapse, but daily contact is far more effective when seeking to maintain long-term sobriety.
Method 2 – Do Something You Enjoy
In early sobriety, many relapse prevention methods may feel burdensome. To counteract this, it will help you to find at least one sober activity that you can do on a daily basis. Those who seek addiction treatment at a facility offering holistic care will be able to develop this practice before leaving treatment, as they will already have access to calming activities such as meditation and yoga. They will also be able to have fun with experiential therapy, going on hikes or engaging in other physical activities.
Upon leaving treatment, you can either continue pursuing the same activities or find others that work for you. A physically active person might like to switch things up, going for morning runs or bike rides during the week and engaging in more significant activities such as paintball over the weekend. Others may simply enjoy keeping a daily journal or reading a book while they have their morning coffee.
Find what works for you and make it a daily practice. After a while, you won’t even think of it as one of your relapse prevention methods. It will just be something you do that keeps you happy and mentally balanced on a daily basis.
Method 3 – Practice Daily Gratitude
By practicing the methods above, you will develop major sources of gratitude in your life. Your daily sober activities and your regular contact with people you care about will remind you every day of the blessings that surround you. Even so, there will inevitably come a time when your gratitude feels challenged. You may be passed over for a promotion, or your significant other may decide to call it quits. Envy, anger or sadness may force their way into your life and cause you to think about numbing yourself with drugs or alcohol. On these days, you may need to look inward for the solution.
Look around you right now, and you will see countless reasons to feel grateful. The shirt on your back, the roof over your head and the food in your kitchen may seem like necessities, but they are luxuries to some people. What some may not tell you, however, is that you needn’t actually consider the less fortunate in order to feel grateful for what you have. You can just feel grateful for the fact that it’s there.
Each morning when you wake up, write down three sources of gratitude in your life. They could be big things like someone you care about or small things like the feeling of freshness you experience after brushing your teeth in the morning. This is one of those relapse prevention methods that most people know about, yet few actually practice every day. Make use of it, and you will find yourself starting every sober day on a much brighter note. Even when cravings arise, it will be much easier to de-catastrophize if you are carrying gratitude in your heart.
Method 4 – Pray and/or Meditate
Many people in recovery like to pray first thing in the morning when they get out of bed, and again right before they go to sleep at night. Some people even keep their shoes tucked far under the bed as a way of forcing them to get on their knees when they get dressed and undressed every day. Prayer works into your daily gratitude practice, but it also stands apart as one of the best relapse prevention methods for those who struggle with high stress levels.
When a person prays, they essentially do two things. First, they talk. Then, if they are seeking answers to a question or simply enjoy the sound of silence when communing with their Higher Power of choice, they will listen. In fact, those who do not believe in prayer may still use meditation for the calm and quiet it provides.
Allowing yourself to de-stress once or twice a day through prayer or meditation will not only add to your relapse prevention methods, it will also keep you on an even keel when dealing with a crisis. Many mindfulness meditation practices also focus on deep breathing, which can help reduce stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This not only helps reduce cravings when they arise, but lessens the likelihood that you will suffer cravings in the first place.
Method 5 – Learn Something New
Treatment centers use cognitive behavioral therapy for many reasons, one of which is its emphasis on goal-setting. Patients establish healthy new behaviors and set goals for putting them into place. You essentially engage in this practice whenever you make a conscious decision to utilize the relapse prevention methods above. When you feel as if you are running out of relapse prevention methods and need to put some more tools in your toolbox, learning a new skill can be an absolute game-changer.
Learning new skills or studying new subjects can accomplish a few goals. First, depending on what you decide to learn, you may add to the relapse prevention methods discussed above by engaging in new sober activities and possibly meeting new people. Second, you provide yourself with a new distraction. The mind will not be able to focus on craving when engaged in the learning process.
More importantly, you will not be as likely to experience cravings at all when you feel as if you are giving your life new purpose. Something as simple as studying a new subject at the library or taking a Mediterranean cooking class can easily do the trick.
Relapse Prevention Therapy
Aspire Health Network can help you develop all of the above relapse prevention methods and more. Through our relapse prevention therapy, clients will learn to identify the relapse prevention methods that work best for them and incorporate them into a healthy routine. At any of our facilities, such as Aspire Treatment Center, each patient’s therapist will help them identify and avoid triggers while also engaging in proactive behaviors to mitigate the odds that triggers will occur. By the time they leave their treatment facility, each client’s relapse prevention methods will already be in place, making it easier to maintain their sobriety one day at a time.
For more information on relapse prevention methods and how we incorporate them into our addiction treatment programs, contact Aspire today. Whether seeking treatment for yourself or a loved one, our individualized approach to relapse prevention will help to ensure the balanced lifestyle necessary to achieve lifelong sobriety.