Completing an addiction recovery program is a huge accomplishment, and it’s the first step in living a long and healthy life. To maintain the new trajectory you started in treatment, you’ll need to tend to your recovery on an ongoing basis. This is a lifelong process and having some tips for preventing relapse can be helpful. While there is no magic solution to banish the possibility of relapse, you can apply some methods to stay on track.
Avoid Tempting Situations
If you’re newly out of rehab, it might not be wise to meet up with your old friends. Some people decide to test their willpower and hang out with old friends who still use to prove it no longer affects them, but this is inherently dangerous. Stay clear of emotional and physical triggers, especially early in recovery. Avoid going places where there will be substance abuse, as well as people or places that remind you of times you used.
In the same regard, seek out a positive support network. Be around people who do not abuse substances and who support your new lifestyle. Unhealthy relationships and unhealthy people don’t have a place in your new life, as they will only tempt you back into your old one.
Observe the 4 D’s
Throughout the course of your treatment, we’ll help you prepare for the challenges of re-entering the real world. In rehab, your access to substances is restricted, but once you transition back to mainstream society, the only true control is yourself. For this reason, many mental health professionals suggest following the 4 Ds when cravings strike:
In other words, delay the decision to use. Sometimes, you struggle minute to minute, and those minutes can stretch into what seems like a lifetime. Remind yourself that it’s only a fraction of your day. The longer you successfully delay your decision, the weaker those cravings will become.
Take a series of deep, steady breaths when you experience a craving, as this will help calm your mind and slow your heart rate. Focus on the movement of your diaphragm – up and down, in and out. This will increase the amount of oxygen to your brain, which becomes restricted when we’re in panic mode.
Find something to do, other than using. This one is easier said than done because cravings can seem to take over your whole world. Do whatever you need to do to distract yourself from the craving, whether it’s cleaning your home, taking a walk, or calling a friend.
In other words, don’t panic. Once panic sets in, it’s easy to lose control. Think of how much stronger you’ll be for the experience, even if you don’t feel strong at the moment. Each time a craving passes, remind yourself of your inner strength. Positive thinking doesn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows. It can be as simple as acknowledging when you conquer a challenge.
Acknowledge Co-Occurring Mental Disorders
Many who come through our doors suffer from a dual diagnosis. That’s when the substance dependency happens alongside a mental issue of some kind, like anxiety or depression. Part of staying ahead of your addiction is recognizing the role your mental disorder plays in it. To maintain your recovery effectively, you’ll have to tend to your substance abuse and your other mental health diagnoses, because you’ll have triggers for both.
Acknowledge the Journey
Remember, recovery is a journey, not a destination. And as with all journeys, the landscape will change over time.
In the earliest days of your recovery and beyond, your main priority should be your health. While boredom can be a problem for people newly out of rehab, so can having too much on your plate. Don’t cram too much into your schedule for the sake of being busy. Create balance and know your limits to minimize your stress. Getting plenty of exercise and sleep is also important. The more you tend to your health, the better off you’ll be.
One of the main problems people have after being out of treatment for a while is becoming too complacent. It’s natural for motivation to wane over time, but perform a “recovery audit” once in a while. It’s not necessary to attend meetings forever, but find other ways to support your recovery efforts so that you don’t become complacent.
Continually striving to take care of yourself and knowing your triggers will help ensure your life is long and healthy.