So, the main point of getting sober is… you guessed it – staying sober. There’s no point to committing to a long-term program of addiction recovery (including medical detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment and aftercare) if you just plan on drinking or using again at some point down the line. Coming to terms with “never again” can be extremely difficult, which is why it is recommended that those who are new to sobriety take things one day at a time. Taking things in stride helps ease the sense of panic that might be aroused by thinking, “Well, that’s it, then. I guess I’m going to be completely sober for the remainder of my sad, boring life.” Over time, of course, you will start to recognize that sobriety is actually a heck of a lot better than using ever was. You gain authentic friends, you start to learn what it is you love to do, you are actually able to hold down a career and your family is finally proud of you (and maybe they even trust you enough to invite you over for dinner without worrying that you’ll raid the medicine cabinets).
When it comes to maintaining long-term sobriety, relapse prevention training is absolutely essential. Most medical detox centers and inpatient rehab facilities put a strong emphasis on relapse prevention, helping clients identify and successfully work through their personal relapse triggers. If you have completed treatment already you likely have a nice range of tools and coping mechanisms under your belt already. Of course, when you come face-to-face with one of your personal triggers, it can be pretty difficult to drop everything and engage in some deep breathing exercises, or take a walk around the block and ground yourself. So how do you effectively handle common relapse triggers when stuff actually hits the fan? We’ve compiled a list of several useful tips. If you need additional support, remember that you can reach out to Intrepid Detox Residential at any point in time.
Common Relapse Triggers
Below we have listed some common relapse triggers. Remember that this list is far from all-inclusive, and that personal triggers vary on a person-to-person basis.
Returning to an environment in which you used to drink or use drugs. If you get sober and then continuously hang out at your favorite dive bar, you’re obviously playing with fire. If you get sober and then immediately go to all of the same music festivals where you used to get super high on all kinds of drugs, you are playing with fire. This is not to say that you can never return to that old dive bar (why would you want to, though) or that you can never return to those same music festivals again. This is simply to say that while you are still finding your footing and working through the steps, precarious environments are best avoided.
Spending time with people that you used to drink or use drugs with. Same concept. It is important that you spend time with people who are completely supportive of your recovery, and who are not actively using drugs or drinking.
Experiencing chronic pain (or another pain-related issue). If you have dealt with chronic pain, you know how triggering physical discomfort can be. The good news is that most treatment centers focus on physical therapy, massage therapy and other non-invasive methods of pain management. For more information, reach out today.
Undergoing extreme stress. Stress is triggering, whether it be work-related stress, school-related stress or the stressors that go hand-in-hand with daily life. Stress management is an important skill to learn for this very reason.
An undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression. If you are struggling with the symptoms of a mental health condition, get in touch with a licensed psychiatrist or seek the care of a dual diagnosis treatment program.
Experiencing a significant personal loss. This could be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a career (unemployment) or the end of a long-term romantic relationship. Loss leads to emptiness, and we are inclined to fill that emptiness with drugs and booze – learning to fill it with other (more productive) things is a process, one that takes time and patience.
Guilt or shame. These feelings (or any uncomfortable emotions, really) can put you in a bad spot. This is why you will need to learn how to effectively work through your discomfort – remember, everything is temporary!
Self-pity. You might have heard the saying, “Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink.” Sitting in a place is self-pity is absolutely not conducive to the maintenance of sobriety. However, it is also not uncommon for recovering addicts and alcoholics to feel exceptionally sorry for themselves.
A lack of sober support. Surrounding yourself with a solid group of like-minded, sober individuals often means the difference between relapse and recovery.
Straying away from your personal aftercare program. Stick to it! Commit!
How to Actually Avoid Relapse
You have probably learned a few healthy coping mechanisms already, but how likely is it that when faced with a serious trigger you will calmly excuse yourself from the current situation and meditate for 20 minutes. “Oh, hello emotionally (and maybe physically) abusive ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, it’s great to see you in this supermarket. So nice to run into you. Your presence makes me extremely uncomfortable and kind of makes me want to slam some dope, so please excuse me while I inhale for 3 seconds and exhale for 7 seconds.” That’s not super realistic. It’s good to know how to self-soothe and calm yourself down, but when you feel that lump climb into your throat and you want to do nothing more than crawl out of your own skin and Alex Mack into the nearest storm drain, what techniques will actually work?
Here are some tips on how to realistically avoid relapse when you’re feeling extremely triggered and you need to chill out fast:
Leave. Book it. Bolt. If you are in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, head for the door, and remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Call someone you trust immediately. Preferably a sober support, like your sponsor or someone else you know from the rooms. But seriously, just get on the phone with anyone. It could be your mom, it could be your grandma, it could be your best friend – just pick up the phone and explain your situation. Be honest about the way you’re feeling, and if you need physical company, ask for it. Say, “Hey, I need you to come over.” Or, “Hey, listen, I’m feeling really crappy right now, I could use some coffee and conversation.”
Hold yourself accountable in a group setting. Ideally, this would mean getting your booty to an AA meeting and sharing about what just happened and how it made you feel. But this could also mean sending out a group text to some of the people in your sponsorship family. “Hey guys, I just ran into my ex who I used to shoot dope with, and it seriously triggered me.” Get the word out there. Be vulnerable.
Play the tape through. This is a pretty cliche relapse prevention technique, but that is because it works. Playing the tape through means quickly weighing out all of the potential consequences, and being honest with yourself about what will actually happen if you decide to pick up. Maybe you feel better for 10-15 seconds. Then you feel worse. You feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame, you need to fess up to your sponsor, your friends and your family members, you need to pick up a white chip again, you might even need to go back to detox. Sure, using might sound rational in the moment – but how rational is it REALLY?
Intrepid Detox Residential – Begin Your Journey of Addiction Recovery Today
If you have been struggling to stay sober or if you have been abusing chemical substances for an extended period of time and you are ready to begin living the life you deserve, give Intrepid Detox Residential a call. Our addiction treatment center is located in Palm Beach, Florida, and it has quickly garnered a reputation as one of the most reputable and effective treatment centers in the area. We believe in a multi-phased approach to recovery – one that begins with medical detox, progresses to inpatient rehab and concludes with a long-term aftercare program. For more information on our individualized recovery program or to begin your own personal journey of healing, call us now.