7 Reasons Relapse Happens - hand reaching for a drink

Understanding common relapse triggers can aid your recovery journey by helping you to take preventative measures when you’re faced with situations or emotional responses that are likely to trigger strong cravings for drugs or alcohol.

A Proactive Approach to Recovery

By taking a proactive approach to your recovery, you drastically increase the odds of maintaining long-term sobriety.

1. Impatience

Recovery takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. If you don’t feel like you’re making progress fast enough, you may be tempted to relapse. Think of this type of impatience as similar to what someone feels when they’re on a diet and hoping for a drastic change instead of a slow, steady weight loss.

One good strategy for addressing impatience is to keep a recovery journal. When you have a written record of your progress, you can see how far you’ve already come and how much your life has changed since you decided to get sober. If you’re more of a visually oriented person, display photographs that symbolize your progress in spots where they can help remind you of what you’ve already accomplished.

2. Overconfidence

As you progress in your recovery, it’s natural to feel more confident in your sobriety. However, overconfidence is a well-known risk factor for relapse.

Addiction is a chronic illness, which means that you will always need to stay on top of your relapse prevention plan just as a diabetic will always need insulin to stay healthy. If you start to feel like you could handle “just one” drink or that you no longer need to avoid your known triggers, this is a serious warning sign.

3. Stress

Balancing work, family, friends, and recovery isn’t always easy. To stay sober, you need to have healthy coping mechanisms in place to help you manage your stress level. This might include spending time in nature, engaging in creative hobbies, listening to soothing music, or practicing a calming yoga routine.

If you frequently used drugs or alcohol to wind down after a stressful day at work or after a fight with a loved one, you should be particularly concerned about stress as a risk factor for relapse. Streamline your routine to eliminate unnecessarily stressful activities, and schedule plenty of time to unwind each day.

4. Loneliness

Although some people are more extroverted than others, all human beings are programmed to crave social connection. When you’re isolated, it’s tempting to turn to drugs and alcohol to numb feelings of loneliness.

Manage this relapse risk factor by making an effort to expand your social circle. Volunteer at a non-profit organization supporting a cause you feel passionate about. Explore a new hobby by taking a class at the community rec center. Join a prayer group at your place of worship.

5. Anger

It’s fairly common for addicts to have difficulty managing their anger, especially if they grew up in a home environment where emotions weren’t dealt with in a constructive manner. They may try to numb their anger with drugs and alcohol or turn aggressive when confronted with anger-inducing situations.

Deep breathing exercises can help calm the physical signs of anger, such as a racing heart, clenched muscles, and a flushed face. Getting your thoughts down on paper can be a tool to help you think about an issue more rationally and determine if there is anything that can be done to solve the problem. When your emotions are under control, you can initiate a discussion with the person who upset you without escalating the situation.

6. Lack of Self-Care

When you don’t exercise regularly, eat balanced meals, and get the rest you need, you’ll lack the energy and focus to make good decisions. Your physical health has a tremendous impact on your mental health.

If you feel guilty about self-care efforts, enlist your friends and family to help you meet your goals. Spending the afternoon preparing nutritious meals with a friend or biking with your kids gives you a chance to socialize while you’re working on developing a healthier lifestyle.

7. Ignoring Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD, it’s vital that you treat this condition at the same time you’re addressing your addiction. Substance abuse is often an attempt to self-medicate the symptoms of mental health disorders.

Mental health disorders are often stigmatized in our culture, but the truth is that mental illness affects people of all ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. Seeking treatment is an act of courage, especially when it helps to build a more solid foundation for your sobriety.

If you or a loved one are in need of help from addiction, please contact us today.