You just finished up your treatment program. Your body is 100% drug/alcohol-free, and you feel ready to return home to start a new life of sobriety. You’re a little nervous, but excited, and ready to restore relationships, return to work, and sit around the dinner table with your family again.
What you may not realize, though, is that you’re entering into the most challenging phase of your recovery journey. Think about it, just a few weeks ago you were at home addicted to a substance that controlled your life, and now, unless you’re able to transition in a sober living environment, you’re jumping right back into the environment that ruined you.
The difference between relapsing right back into your addiction and remaining committed to sobriety often depends on your attitude towards recovery, the situations you choose to involve yourself in, and your approach to avoiding relapse.
Avoiding relapse requires a plan, rigorous support, and a serious commitment to not giving in to old temptations and triggers.
Have a Plan—Relapse Comes Slowly
To prevent addiction relapse you must understand the relapse process, which begins weeks and sometimes even months before you pick up that first drink or drug.
This past year, my wife and I were determined to run our first marathon together and we resolved not to eat sweets from January 1 until the marathon on May 7. New Year’s Eve rolled around and we found ourselves indulging in sweets of every variety right up until midnight. It was our first mistake.
As the ball dropped in Time’s Square, we looked at each other, nodded, and dropped our empty ice cream bowls into the sink. We were relatively determined, but we were also without a plan of attack or a good way to keep each other accountable.
Our next mistake came a few days later when I found a half bag of Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Chips in the corner cabinet of our kitchen. What a waste to let them go unenjoyed until May! We finished off the bag—just a few handfuls.
It wasn’t long before we were right back into our old “sweet-eating” habits.
What we didn’t realize was that to stay strong for more than a few days or weeks, we needed to prepare. We should have emptied our kitchen of all sugar-filled goodies long before New Year’s Day. We should have documented what we were going to eat as an alternative to our sweet treats, and then finally how we would manage our temptations and cravings, especially when sharing meals with friends.
In short, we didn’t have a plan; and because of that, we failed in our resolve to cut sugar. We did, however, run our first marathon together, so it was still a partial success!
Creating and Refining Your Relapse Prevention Plan
Make sure you have a realistic plan when you begin your sobriety. If you’re reading this and you don’t have a plan, talk with your sponsor, counselor, or someone that you love and trust today. Here are a few ideas to get your relapse prevention plan started:
- Create a list of situations, people, places, and feelings associated with drinking and using. Next to that list, write an action plan that spells out how you’ll deal with each situation, person, place, or feeling.
- Write down a list of things you can do when you feel tempted to drink/use. For example: go to the movies, exercise, read a book, call someone, go for a walk… after some experimentation, you’ll find what works well for you.
- Schedule time to attend AA meetings, talk with your sponsor, and be otherwise encouraged during the week.
The most important part of creating this plan is that it works for you. Don’t create the plan with your friend or sponsor in mind; create it for yourself—you’re the one who has to follow it.
Get the Support You Need
One of the most important things you can do to maintain your sobriety and prevent relapse when you return home is to surround yourself with a supportive community that will encourage your sobriety.
Here are a few practical ways to immerse yourself into community:
- Find and attend an AA or NA meeting near you on a regular basis. For many, this is the foundation to maintaining your recovery after treatment.
- Find a sponsor you trust. Your sponsor is someone who will be there to listen and empathize with you during your recovery journey.
- Volunteer your time at an organization that you believe in. This could be a non-profit organization you live near, your church, or a local school.
- Reach out to friends and family members for support.
How We Prevent Relapse
At Duffy’s all our guests leave treatment with an exit strategy in hand (a document that shows step-by-step how to adjust back into life at home), and the tools they need to prevent relapse during the early stages of recovery.
We do this for our guests by setting aside time each week during one-on-one and group counseling sessions to talk through the tools needed to stay sober at home. During the sessions we’ll walk through how to deal with internal and external addictive tendencies, and give you strategies to take home and put into practice.
We also include 90 days of transitional treatment after our 30, 60 and 90-day programs, so you can have the additional support you need when you leave treatment. A Full Circle recovery care specialist meets with you once a week to help you stay on track with your plan.
Have Your Relapsed Recently?
Maybe you’ve been in recovery and recently relapsed—you’re not alone. Unfortunately, this happens all the time. Old temptations, friends, and situations entice you to start using again, and you slip back into your addiction.
You don’t have to stay there, though. I want to encourage you not to continue in your addiction. If you’re not sure what you’re next step should be, you can give us a call and talk through your options with one of our admissions coordinators.
Sobriety is possible—but it starts with you.