Recovering from addiction is not an easy task. When you start to consider all the people, places, and things that remind you of addiction, staying sober seems much harder. In fact, studies show that between 40-60% of people relapse at some point in their recovery.
Learning how to prevent relapse is vital for your recovery. Addiction treatment centers will teach you relapse prevention strategies that allow you to remain sober even in distressing times.
Relapse prevention skills not only help you deal with triggers and stay sober from drugs and alcohol, but they can also improve your mental health and your recovery as a whole. Here are 7 relapse prevention strategies you may learn during rehab.
1. Identifying and Preventing “HALT”
HALT is an acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. These are all feelings that could easily lead to relapse without proper intervention. Whenever you feel a craving to use substances, ask yourself if you are experiencing any of these feelings.
By doing an inventory of HALT, you can decipher whether you need to address feelings of hunger, anger, loneliness, or being tired. This can help you prevent yourself from experiencing a relapse and understand what you need to stay healthy and content.
2. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a practice that can help you become more self-aware. Being self-aware will help you identify triggers as they come, preventing you from relapsing.
Mindfulness meditation encourages you to learn how to accept your triggers and cravings, rather than fighting them. Accepting the idea that cravings will happen is a skill that you learn through this practice. After you accept that cravings occur, you will implement relapse prevention skills such as letting go of personal control and the use of prayer or meditation.
The goal of mindfulness is to teach you to pay attention, focus on what you’re doing, where you are, who you’re with, and more. In other words, it teaches you to be in the moment. This can prevent you from worrying about the past or future and keep you in the present, leading to tremendous insight and empowerment over cravings.
3. Knowing Your Triggers
An important skill to have when it comes to relapse prevention strategies is to be able to recognize your triggers. Triggers are distressing things or events that cause you to feel like you need to use drugs or alcohol. There are internal triggers (anxiety, irritability, stress, anger, low self-esteem) and external triggers (people, places, or things that remind you of drug use).
Being aware of your personal triggers can help you avoid them and work through them when avoiding them is not possible, reducing the risk of relapse.
4. Joining Support Groups
Another relapse prevention strategy you will learn is how to rely on support groups. Regularly participating in a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery can provide you with support, accountability, education, and the ability to meet others who are going through similar issues as you.
Going to support groups further prevents relapse as it decreases feelings of loneliness, isolation, and hopelessness, which are all common triggers for relapse.
5. The “5-4-3-2-1” Technique
Some of the biggest triggers for relapse are stress and anxiety, which are common feelings you may experience in early recovery. An extremely helpful anxiety-relief skill is known as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This is a grounding technique that takes you through the five senses to allow you to focus on the moment, avoiding thoughts of anxiety or substance abuse.
The 5 steps begin by taking a few breaths, which are followed by:
- Acknowledging 5 things you see around you
- Acknowledging 4 things you can touch around you
- Noticing 3 things you can hear around you
- Noticing 2 things you can smell around you
- Acknowledging 1 thing you can taste around you
This exercise concludes with a long and deep breath. Focusing on your senses allows you to increase mindfulness, gain self-awareness, feel more in control, and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed. All of these things help you prevent yourself from facing a relapse.
6. Play the Tape Through
One of the most popular relapse prevention strategies that you will learn in addiction treatment is “playing the tape through.” When you begin thinking about using drugs or alcohol to cope with uncomfortable situations and emotions, this is a great tool to use. Playing the tape through is a skill that asks you to imagine what will happen in the short and long-term future if you decide to go through with using substances.
This exercise helps you remember the consequences of addiction to prevent you from desiring drugs or alcohol.
7. Breathing Exercises
As you know, breathing is central to life. To live, you have to breathe. Oftentimes, we breathe without even thinking about it, however, focusing on your breath can provide you with a multitude of physical, emotional, and mental benefits.
Breathing greatly impacts your emotions and controls your overall mood. Deep breathing releases certain neurotransmitters in your brain that make you feel good. This provides you with relaxation, happiness, and even a reduction in pain.
Knowing how to control your breath and using deep breathing exercises can help you control stress, anxiety, anger, and even fear. Being able to self-regulate your emotions in this way can prevent you from relapsing.
Relapse Prevention at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one suffer from addiction, attending a professional addiction treatment program can save your life. Addiction can lead to an array of health consequences, including heart attacks, strokes, organ failure, and fatal overdoses, but the relapse prevention strategies you will learn in treatment can help you stay sober.
At Woburn Wellness, we embrace personalized addiction treatment for each of our clients and arm them with the tools they will need to stay sober long-term. Contact Woburn Wellness today to get started.