While a obstacle at the time, relapse is a common part of recovery. Roughly 40% to 60% of people with a substance use disorder will relapse at some point during the recovery process.
There are many ways to minimize and/or help avoid relapse. Here are some ideas:
- Continue with therapy: Follow-up care, including intensive therapy and medications, should be prioritized. Regular visits with a therapist will help catch issues as they arise, rather than waiting until a relapse occurs. After-care programs are also essential to preventing relapse and often includes stress management, workshops, and guided group sessions.
- Seek support: Peer support groups such as AA or 12-step groups can greatly ease the individual pressure by sharing experiences. While often spiritual in nature, there are many different types of groups, which can be found based on gender, age, sexual orientation, etc.
- Eat healthy: This includes drinking enough water and choosing whole foods such as fruits, veggies, lean meats, lean dairy, and whole grains. After a relapse, it’s even more important to replenish the vitamins and minerals lost during drug or alcohol use. Limiting processed foods, refined sugar, and saturated fats is essential to healthy eating. Additionally, healthy eating can reduce anxiety, depression and, even, drug cravings.
- Get active: A daily dose of physical activity is immensely helpful in warding off or treating relapse. Not only does it clear the mind and offer a positive outlook through the production of endorphins, but exercise can lower stress and improve physical health. It’s recommended that adults aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week of moderate activity such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics, or fast-paced yoga.
- Prioritize meditation: Even just 15 minutes of quiet meditation a day can have lasting results in emotional reactions. Mindful meditation will typically focus on breathing. It also helps manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Stay busy: Finding ways to stay busy is important, so look for things that are enjoyable. Creative outlets such as writing, reading, painting, music, and photography are good options. The trick is finding something interesting on a personal level. It’s great when hobbies lead to social interactions as well, for example, take a class or join a group also interested in your hobby.
- Avoid triggers: Especially early in recover, it’s recommended to avoid people and places that are reminiscent of drug and alcohol use. While certain events such as family parties, holidays, or weddings, may be triggers, always plan ahead with ways to combat the triggers. This could include setting up a time to call a friend to check in, planning a way to leave at any moment, or looking for a quiet space with fresh air during the event.
- Ask for help: Relapse is a setback, not a failure. An important aspect of recovery is knowing you asking for help when you need it. When needed, call a friend, family member, mentor, crisis hotline, or therapist.