Relapse prevention is aftercare. This can come in the form of a program through a treatment center, a 12 step program, or any kind of continuing therapy in Connecticut. Relapse prevention is a matter of life or death. Since Drug and Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease, consistent treatment is vital to keep symptoms at bay.
What Is a Relapse?
When addiction treatment is completed and the patient leaves the clinic, the real work begins. An addict who graduates from a rehab clinic is afflicted with a chronic illness. That means that it’s a lifelong issue that must be carefully navigated. If a patient becomes negligent in paying attention to their actions, they can slip into relapse.
Relapses occur when the addictive behaviors surrounding drugs or alcohol resurface and for harder drugs like heroin and meth, relapse can mean using again. Relapses can be especially dangerous with patients because of their sobriety. Addicts can build up a tolerance to their drug of choice but after they’ve achieved sobriety for a length of time, their body won’t have the same tolerance. A relapsing person who does not recognize this could overdose more easily by using the same dosages as when they were using more frequently.
If someone relapses, that doesn’t mean the treatment failed. Just like other chronic diseases, most days can be just fine and normal but now and then, the illness can be more difficult to deal with.
How Relapses Occur
Many addicts can relapse for a variety of reasons and need different kinds of support to help prevent occurrences. Some people will be anxious or depressed then experience an unpredictable event which can trigger old behaviors which may have included using drugs as a coping mechanism for such events. Other people may have a more chemical connection with their drug of choice, often thinking about it, even going so far as to not even consciously realize their thoughts are fixated on their drug. Still others may slowly slip into habits and behaviors which mimic those before getting clean and may lead to full addiction relapse through the repetition of those old patterns.
Because addiction is more than just chemical dependence, relapse is the more difficult and permanent of the two factors.
Relapses, when the patient is focused on recovery, can be few and far between, but it’s never a case of simply Tuesday the person is fine and Wednesday they’re on a binge out of nowhere. Several factors are key when it comes to relapse. A person will be given tools to handle the triggers as they come. Depression, anxiety, worry, isolation and other stresses may have previously been the relationship the person had with their drug of choice where they self medicated in times of trouble for them.
Holidays can be especially difficult for many people have been treated for addiction, especially drinkers, which is another problem when preventing relapse. Sometimes, a person will be fine if they stay in an environment free of their drug of choice. When that drug becomes more readily or easily available, it turns into a reasoning to not maintain sobriety. “Well, I didn’t exactly go looking for it so it must be okay, then” rationalization will occur, though it can tie in with stress triggers, as well. “Well, I didn’t exactly go looking for it and I’ve had a rough day”.
Other signals such as meeting with specific friends the person used to use the substance with, memories triggered by even mundane events like a song coming on a radio, etc. can come unexpectedly if the addict isn’t aware of their own state of mind. Behaviors that became ingrained habits from when they regularly used the drug can be difficult to alter for a variety of reasons.
Relapse prevention is what happens after rehab. By navigating addiction triggers, the recovery process then becomes about staying sober and aware of how the addiction can modify behavior. Understanding the behavior through therapy and participating in support groups as necessary can help a person remain the master of their own autonomy. It’s very difficult to prevent all relapse. Many patients can end up back into detox several times before coming to grips with their addiction. As long as the goal of preventing relapses stays the focus of the patient, it’s not an impossible goal. Most rehab centers offer post-treatment relapse prevention services.
Services for Prevention
Preventing relapse is often comprised of a support group of some kind as well as sparse therapy such as talking with a psychologist. There are both 12-step and non-12-step support groups which can help form a network of help for a person looking to avoid relapsing into substance use. 12-step groups are those such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Their style of support involves some spiritual elements that is not for everyone. Non-12-step programs include support groups may include those that assign homework to help keep sobriety the daily focus while in recovery.
Having a sponsor or several sponsors as a 24-hour emergency help can also be a part of the process. While avoiding triggers, there may be times where emotional help and advice can be enough to get through those specific cravings.
Some services use SMART as a framework which focuses not on maintaining complete sobriety but with assistance controlling use. It’s a rather new and unconventional approach that has seen mixed successes where used. Because not all addictions are the same, not all prevention may be suitable. A mixture of the various methods tailored to the person will end up being the most successful.
As time goes on after a patient graduates through rehab, less and less of these services will be necessary. A person who successfully rehabilitates completely will understand the triggers to relapse and understand how to introspectively and environmentally avoid situations that will cause one. It’s an ongoing process that will continue throughout the person’s life.