relapse prevention

What is Relapse Prevention?

by Pat Fontana

In addiction treatment, you will learn ways to stay sober and to keep from relapsing. You may have questions about this term and what it means for you. What is relapse prevention? It involves some proactive measures on your part to focus on your recovery.

Recovery Takes Time

The first thing to understand is that recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol does not happen overnight. While you need to seek out help in a professionally run addiction treatment program, that is also not an immediate, magical cure. You will need to constantly focus on staying clean and sober. It is a lifelong journey, rather than a short-term solution.

What It Means to Relapse

A relapse, in medical terms, is a worsening of a condition that had previously been improving. Addiction is a chronic disease that needs to be treated and managed throughout your life. If you relapse, you will start using drugs or alcohol again and worsen the disease of addiction.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines relapse as the recurrence of behavioral or other substantive indicators of active disease after a period of remission. In other words, you have participated in an addiction treatment program and have been drug-free or alcohol-free for several months, but then start using one of those substances again. The behavior you learned to control during treatment has become uncontrolled once again and you are considered to have relapsed.

What relapse does not mean is that you’ve failed in your recovery. It is another obstacle to overcome as you work toward a successful recovery. If you accept that you’ve relapsed but then work on your treatment program again, you are more likely to eventually overcome your addiction.

Stages of Relapse

Relapse prevention is important for your long-term recovery from addiction. One of the keys is to recognize the potential stages and then to develop a plan to deal with them. Relapse typically occurs in three stages and can start before you actually take a drink or use a drug again.

Emotional relapse: You begin to isolate yourself and keep your emotions bottled up. You may begin to feel angry or anxious and are not sleeping or eating well.

Mental relapse: You are now at war with yourself. Part of you is tempted to use substances again and part of you does not want to do so. You’re remembering the people and places you used to associate with as well as what you considered to be good times when you were using. You don’t think about the bad times that occurred as a result of your substance use as you start planning to use again.

Physical relapse: You start using again, one pill or one drink at a time. You relapse into regular substance use once again.

Steps for Relapse Prevention

Recovery from addiction is a process. During that process, you will encounter developmental milestones and new risks for relapse. You and your addiction treatment professional can take steps to help you prevent relapse throughout the process and into a successful recovery.

In long-term addiction treatment, you will learn healthier coping mechanisms, including how to avoid those high-risk situations. Remaining in treatment can help you avoid the triggers of boredom, stress, and anger. Steps to prevent relapse will include developing self-care techniques, practicing mindfulness meditation, and participating in cognitive therapy sessions designed to help you understand the underlying causes of your addiction.

One of the main goals of addiction treatment is to help you recognize the early warning signs of relapse so you can develop the skills necessary to prevent it early in the process, when your chances of success are at their highest. This approach has been demonstrated to significantly reduce the risk of relapse.

Get Help at South Miami Recovery

Overcoming an addiction is not easy. At South Miami Recovery, we are here to help you get started on your recovery and learn successful techniques for relapse prevention. You deserve to enjoy true freedom from active substance dependency, so you can live a healthier life. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we want everyone to stay safe and healthy, so we offer HIPAA-compliant telehealth services to help them get the treatment they need now. To learn more about substance abuse services, including relapse prevention, contact us today. Call South Miami Recovery at 305.661.0055.