Substance Use Relapse Prevention: Strategies for taking it one hour at a time.

Recovering from substance use disorder is a significant accomplishment. This means that you were able to recognize the sabotage that you were volunteering upon yourself and you decided to put a stop to it! However, the journey towards long-term sobriety can be challenging and often involves the risk of relapse. Substance use relapse refers to the return to substance abuse after a period of abstinence. It is crucial to understand that relapse is a common occurrence and does not signify failure. In fact, relapse should be seen as an opportunity for growth and reinforcement of relapse prevention strategies.

One of the initial steps in relapse prevention is identifying high-risk situations and/or circumstances that can potentially trigger a relapse. These situations may vary from person to person, but common triggers include stress, exposure to the substance, social settings, negative emotions, and certain people or places associated with substance use. By recognizing these triggers, you can develop a proactive plan to avoid or cope with them effectively.

Building a strong support network is crucial in relapse prevention. Surrounding yourself with people who support your recovery and understand the challenges you face can provide a significant source of encouragement and accountability. This network can include friends, family members, support groups, and therapists. Regular attendance at support group meetings can provide invaluable guidance and understanding from individuals who have experienced similar struggles.

The development of healthy coping mechanisms is vital to maintain sobriety. Substance abuse often serves as a maladaptive coping mechanism for dealing with stress, negative emotions, or life challenges. By replacing unhealthy coping mechanisms with positive alternatives, you can effectively manage triggers and cravings. Engaging in activities such as connecting with like minded peers, art therapy, and pursuing new hobbies can provide healthier outlets for unpleasant emotions.

Relapse prevention skills are tools and strategies that individuals can learn and practice to reduce the risk of relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are evidence-based therapeutic approaches that focus on identifying and modifying negative thought patterns, developing effective communication skills, and building resilience. These therapeutic interventions provide individuals with the skills necessary to navigate challenging situations, cope with cravings, and manage stress.

Creating a structured daily routine is beneficial for individuals in recovery. A routine helps establish a sense of stability and reduces the risk of boredom or idleness, which can lead to relapse. Developing and maintaining regular sleep patterns, incorporating healthy meals, exercise, and engaging in meaningful activities can provide structure and purpose. Additionally, creating a schedule that includes support group meetings or therapy sessions can help individuals stay committed to their recovery goals. Prioritizing self-care, including maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and engaging in regular exercise, is also essential for overall well-being and relapse prevention.

Being able to recognize the warning signs of relapse is vital for prevention. These signs may include changes in mood, increased irritability, social withdrawal, decreased self-care, and romanticizing past substance use. By being aware of warning signs, you can take proactive measures to ensure that you are staying ahead of unexpected warning signs.