Making the decision to end your addiction to an illicit substance is an incredibly difficult first step. And when you finally manage to get clean, it can feel like you've reached the top of a mountain and it's time to celebrate.
Unfortunately, there will be dozens of other mountains to crest in this journey, because addiction is a problem that just doesn't completely go away. There will always be triggers there just begging you to dive back into your addiction.
But there's hope. Once you have taken the control of your body back from drugs, you can make so many other choices to ensure that you never relapse back into them.
Read on to learn more about how to avoid a drug relapse and the steps you should take to ensure that your recovery is lifelong.
Change Your Friends
This is a hard one, but it's one you have to do. When you've decided it's time for you to get clean, there's just no way you can hang out with the same people you used to hang out with, especially if they're still using the drug that you used to use.
You need to limit your exposure to your drug of choice and you just can't do that while there are other people in active addiction using these drugs.
When you are fresh out of rehab or freshly clean, you need to work hard at avoiding triggers at all costs. And one of these triggers is often those people. You remember when you used to hang out with them and all the good feelings that came along with that friendship. And in a weak moment, it would be so easy to give into that temptation.
Join a local organization where your meetings will be based on something other than drugs and alcohol. Try a book club or a sewing club. And when you make friends with the people at this club, get an idea of their thoughts on drug and alcohol use before you hang out with them outside of that setting.
Stay Away From Your Old Haunts
There are just some places that are naturally associated with drug use. Raves, clubs, and bars are generally places that an addict has to stay away from. But they aren't limited only to these places.
If there was a spot where you tended to hang out a lot while you were high or while you were using drugs, you need to stay away from it. Whether that was a particular part of town or a specific parking lot, it's a good idea to just steer clear even if you have an emotional connection with them.
Sometimes this means you might need to find a new way to get to work or school, but the few extra minutes you will tack onto your drive will be worth it in the end when you find it easier to maintain your sobriety.
The reason for this is stress. It's a part of our lives every day, but some days are harder than others. It's better to get used to a new route home than to drive past the bar you used to visit on a day that's been especially bad. It would be so easy to say "man, I've had a rough day, I'm going to stop at the bar. One drink won't hurt."
Just find a new route home.
A sober living home is a home that is operated and inhabited by people who are recovering from an addiction. It has also been proven to increase the chances of maintaining sobriety.
When you live with people who understand just how important it is to stay sober, you can receive and be a part of a support and encouragement system when there is a lot of extra stress.
For the most part, you have to pay rent and do chores in order to live in these facilities. You can't use drugs or alcohol and you must go to meetings.
Other than that, the in-house rules will vary between the different sober living facilities out there. It's a good idea to visit a bunch of different homes before you make the decision, that way you know you will be able to benefit from the structure that home provides.
Make a Plan
Addiction is a disease and a side effect of that disease is the craving you will get for your drug of choices. Your cravings could decrease the longer your sobriety lasts. However, no matter how far away you get from your active addiction, your body will still go through periods of craving.
Unfortunately, unless you have a plan in place for when these cravings happen, you run the risk of relapse.
Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous recommend having a sponsor. This is a person that walks you through cravings and guide you in order to help you keep sobriety. This is a great idea for everyone dealing with an addiction to adopt, even if they're not a member of these organizations.
Talk about your feelings with your friends and family. Create a support system of people who will be there for you when you feel like you might relapse. Write down their numbers and tape it to the fridge or the bathroom mirror.
It's a good idea to create a list of these numbers, that way if the first person doesn't answer, you can call the next person on the list.
This system doesn't work if you don't use it, though. Don't be afraid to get a hold of these people even if it might seem like a bad time. If you talked about your needs when you discussed creating this support system, they know your situation and are willing to be there for you in your time of need.
Your sobriety is worth it. You are worth it.
Some rehabs offer small courses, like a "refresher" course, for a small fee. If you continue to feel the need to use drugs even after you've tried all of the other ideas we mentioned above, or if the cravings are getting beyond your control, it might be a good idea to head back to rehab for a while in order to get past those cravings.
This is not going to be an easy decision to make. Once you've integrated back into your life, you're probably not going to want to leave it. However, if you relapse, you'll be leaving it for good. So it's worth putting it all on pause for a while in order for you to gather yourself back together and come back even stronger.
If you had cancer and you found out you were back in the active stages of disease again, you wouldn't hesitate taking time off of work in order to treat it. Remember, addiction is a disease and it's worth being treated like one.
Take Your Meds
Many addicts have additional health problems. If you're one of those people, it's absolutely imperative that you take your medication all the time, on time, no matter how you feel.
Mental illness contributes to drug and alcohol abuse. But these symptoms can be easily controlled with the right medication. Don't assume you're cured because your symptoms go away, talk to your doctor before going off any medication.
Relapse Prevention Programs
A good recovery program will have a relapse prevention program to help you build a foundation for recovery.
In this program, you should be educated on the potential warning signs of a relapse and what the risks are. When you know about these risks and warning signs, you're better equipped to handle them when they happen.
Also, you should understand the difficulties with PAWS or post-acute withdrawal syndrome. Some drugs can leave a lasting withdrawal that can last for months or even longer. Someone who has taken a lot of an illicit drug over a very long time is more likely to have to deal with this condition.
Coping skills are also incredibly important. Life comes with so many struggles no matter your state of addiction, and you have to know how to handle them when they come.
And one of the most important parts of a good relapse prevention program is integrating self-care into your everyday routine. You have to take good physical, mental, and emotional care of yourself in order to make sure that your sobriety lasts.
Common Relapse Triggers
Every addict and every addiction is different, and everyone experiences different triggers. However, there are a few that seem pretty general across the board.
If you start to feel too hungry, too tired, too lonely, or too angry, your risk for relapse goes up. You need to plan ahead and make sure that you're taking care of yourself and attending meetings.
In fact, this is true for all negative emotions. These emotions are probably what led you to drug use in the first place. And there is no way to avoid negative emotions completely, so this is something you have to learn how to cope with.
What to Do If You Relapse
If you've slipped up and gone back to drugs or alcohol after being sober for a while, you're probably dealing with a lot of feelings.
But you need to remember that relapses are a part of recovery. Most people do relapse at least once.
It doesn't mean that you've failed and it doesn't mean that you should stop trying.
What you need to do now is respond the right way. Take action now and prevent it from getting any worse.
Think About Why
There are probably a lot of things that led up to this moment. Maybe you ran into one too many of your personal triggers or you've been under a lot of stress, or a combination of all the factors that lead to relapse.
You need to spend some time thinking about what brought you here. Who have you been spending time with? Are you feeling overwhelmed? What does your self-talk sound like right now? Are you going to meetings?
Once you've done your thinking, start adjusting your behaviors so you can get started back on the road to recovery again.
Remember that support system we talked about earlier? It's time to call them. Let them know what happened and make yourself accountable to them. They can help guide you back to your path.
Go Back to Rehab
Like we said, relapse is a part of addiction recovery. But so is rehab. When you've relapsed, it's a good idea to head back to rehab. Maybe you need to change your treatment strategy.
Just don't be afraid to go back and don't take it as a sign of weakness. This is a choice that you're making to better your life. Recovery is a skill and you're just trying to hone yours.
Stop beating yourself up for this setback and get started on getting better. Your negative self-talk isn't going to help you.
You need to acknowledge your mistake, make the effort to change it, and let go of your negative emotions around it.
Avoiding a Drug Relapse
Addiction is a disease and, unfortunately, sometimes diseases relapse. However, there are so many tools at your disposal to help you prevent an alcohol or drug relapse.
You've already done most of the hard work. You've admitted your addiction and gone through a treatment program. Hopefully, you're attending meetings and making your way through life as a recovering addict.
As long as you continue to make those positive decisions for yourself, you will see your sobriety years add up quickly.
If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction, don't hesitate to reach out for help.