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The addiction recovery process is an ongoing journey that impacts people for the rest of their lives. While it tends to get easier with time, there’s always a risk of relapse— this is a natural part of the journey.
Preventing a relapse should be a top priority during recovery. Here are six effective strategies for minimizing the risk of relapse and protecting your sobriety.
Create a Relapse Response Plan
The first step in minimizing risks is creating a relapse response plan. This process is often covered in addiction treatment programs. The key elements include:
- Being able to identify the signs of an impending relapse
- Educating support people (family members, friends) on what to do
- Having a list of professional resources available
- Having a step-by-step plan of who to call and what to do
Having a set plan in place can be tremendously beneficial when the risk of relapsing is imminent. It’s also wise to prepare for variability in the plan. For example, if you have to travel for work, take some time to search for an “aa meeting near me” when you arrive, so you know where to go if you experience a trigger.
Identify and Avoid Triggers
Becoming aware of your triggers and making an effort to avoid them is essential for protecting your sobriety. Your triggers could be certain events, people, or places. By making an effort to avoid these situations, you won’t put yourself in a position where you have to fight impulsive thoughts or cravings.
Unfortunately, avoiding triggers isn’t always possible. If you have to travel to a conference or trade show for work, you might be exposed to alcohol. You might run into a triggering person on the sidewalk despite your best efforts. When these situations arise, using the healthy coping skills you’ve learned during your treatment is essential. Don’t hesitate to call a support person and share your experience for help.
Practice Stress Management
Stress is a significant trigger for many people in recovery. Many people use substances as an unhealthy coping mechanism for stress or trauma. While you can’t eradicate stress from your life, you can set boundaries for yourself and others.
Identify stressors in your life that you could eliminate— time spent on social media, interacting with toxic people, etc. Practice active stress management techniques for those factors you can’t avoid. Breathing techniques, exercise, journaling, and other mindfulness activities can help minimize stress and help you self-regulate.
Engage in New Social Activities
Many people on a recovery journey have to cut social ties with friends and contacts to protect their sobriety. Even though addiction recovery is positive, it can be very isolating and lonely.
You can offset these feelings by seeking new interests and social groups to engage with. This chapter of your life is an opportunity to try new things or revisit old passions that you had put on the backburner. Connecting with other people in treatment or on a sober journey can also be beneficial to help avoid triggers and motivate each other.
Try to incorporate physical movement in your new activities. Exercise has been proven to help minimize cravings and bolster success in addiction treatment.
Take a Proactive Approach to Mental Health
One of the most common mistakes people make after going through treatment is taking a reactive approach to mental health. In other words, they don’t seek help or access resources until a problem arises. In some cases, this response comes too late to prevent a relapse.
Instead, take a proactive approach to your mental health and wellness. Attend meetings and therapy sessions, even when things are going well. Sometimes it’s challenging to recognize early warning signs within ourselves. Being proactive in continuing the ongoing treatment and recovery plan is essential.
Focus on the Day
There’s perhaps no recovery mantra more simple and profound than “one day at a time.” Planning for the future and setting long-term goals is an important part of moving on with your life. However, focusing on your sobriety and preventing a relapse sometimes requires a honed-in focus on the present.
On the tough days, remind yourself that you can stay sober for one more day. Then, repeat the process tomorrow. Use the resources available to you and build a happy, healthy life one day at a time.