Your Health Seth Stratton | 5 years ago

Working to Prevent Relapse After Getting Sober

Getting sober is a tremendous accomplishment, yet it is just the beginning of a challenging, lifelong journey.

The reality of addiction is that even after a successful rehab program, there is a chance for relapse at some point – but relapse is preventable. While many rehab programs, such as Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health First Step provide services to help prepare for life of sobriety, there are plenty of approaches and techniques to put into practice that can help prevent a relapse in day-to-day life. The first few months of living sober are often the most challenging. Not only do you have to navigate a transition to a new lifestyle, but cravings can be powerful as well.

Buddy Up

“Before you leave treatment, get a temporary sponsor who you agree to talk to every day,” suggests Tondra, who has been sober for eight years. “I also recommend going to group meetings as often as possible for the first 90 days.” In the first months of sobriety, ridding yourself of destructive relationships is crucial. It may be necessary to change your contact information and adjust your social media networks to block out people that could hinder your sobriety. “Stay away from old playmates and old playgrounds,” advises Heather, who has been sober six years.  “Anything that looks like, smells like or reminds you of using – stay far away from it. Once you take away the drugs and alcohol you need to find something to replace those things with to keep busy.” Develop positive and healthy habits. Working out regularly and eating wholesome foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, can play a substantial role in preventing relapse. Meditation and daily journal writing are recommended too.

Keep it Simple

“Sobriety can be developed by who you are and your life balance; the ability to change and or adapt with life balance reduces relapse as well,” says Larry Coplin, coordinator, behavioral health services at Carolinas HealthCare System. “The challenge is consistent simplicity.” Relapses don’t just happen in an instant. Self-awareness is a big part of preventing a relapse. Feelings of anxiety, guilt, shame, anger or depression are all warning signs, as are behaviors such as skipping meetings, sleeping poorly and isolating yourself from others. Once you become aware of signs of a potential relapse, you can then take appropriate action to mitigate it. When a potential relapse is present, take back control with visualization exercises and patience. Visualization might mean thinking through all of the potential consequences, negative emotions and disappoint that will go along with using again. Typically urges last between 15 and 30 minutes; so if you can wait it out, the feeling will soon fade away. If that doesn’t work, reach out to someone and let them know you’re struggling. “Play the tape forward,” says Lauren, who has been sober five years. “This means really think things through to the end before you do anything. I used to rely on instant gratification. Now, I like to think about the potential outcomes.” If you or someone you love does relapse, don’t view it as a failure. It happens. Seek help immediately and start the program over again. It will certainly be humbling; however, use it to make you stronger the next time.

All year long, we’re putting sobriety in the spotlight to help shatter the stigma around addiction and inspire people to change their lives. Read and share our stories – and join the conversation – using #ThisIsSober