If you’ve struggled with coming to terms with your drug addiction and acknowledging the problem, there is still a lot of effort needed to maintain the new habit of sobriety.
It is not uncommon for one to feel the urge to relapse, but how you deal with this urge has significant long-term consequences. Research shows that more than 85% of drug addicts relapse to substance use within one year after treatment.
This is usually because of an absence of a long-term relapse prevention plan. A proper relapse prevention plan will equip you to deal with any urge or vulnerability to relapse and with high-risk situations without giving in.
Knowing the warning signs for relapse is the first step to preparing yourself to deal with the threat. The problem usually starts with emotional relapse (thinking about what substance use felt like), followed by mental relapse (thinking about taking the substance), and ultimately physical relapse (return to drug use).
However, regardless of the threat, you can overcome the urge to relapse with enough dedication and guidance, and the following techniques will help you battle it effectively.
1. Seek professional help
There is nothing weak or shameful in needing some professional assistance in overcoming your addiction problem. If you have not sought treatment before, consider joining a substance abuse program or continue with a long-term treatment plan and follow it through till the end.
Together with self-help and social support groups, treatment interventions can bring tremendous change in your life. Addiction treatment facilities like those offered by the Delphi Health Group offer unique and personalized treatment plans that aim towards long-lasting sobriety.
A relapse prevention program teaches you how to cope with cravings, deal with negative thoughts, find healthier alternatives to drugs, understand the stages of relapse and watch out for them.
On the other hand, self-help groups will provide you with a community that is going through the same challenge as you. With this social circle, you get motivation from others to persist in your effort and can share your feelings without fear of being judged.
2. Identify relapse triggers
You cannot fight against a problem unless you understand it fully. When battling against the urge to indulge, you should first be aware of the situations or people likely to trigger this urge.
Such triggers can either be internal or external. Internal triggers are relapse triggers that originate within you. These can include feelings of shame, guilt, anger, fear, and depression.
Alternatively, positive feelings when you feel confident (or over-confident) in your progress or when you celebrate some success can also trigger the urge.
Such triggers vary from person to person; create a list of your relapse triggers and look out for them.
3. Practice mindful meditation
Self-awareness is the key to understanding the addiction problem and acknowledging the urge to relapse. Self-awareness is particularly useful in fighting against potential relapse triggers.
Research shows that substance users who followed mindful meditation were better able to cope with their cravings and remain sober for longer than those who did not.
Mindfulness teaches you to be aware of your internal feelings and your surroundings. Mindfulness meditation also teaches you grounding techniques, how to recognize your emotions, and focus on internal sensations.
In addiction recovery, this method reduces stress and anxiety, minimizes the impact of acute withdrawal symptoms, and counters cycles of negative, maladaptive thoughts.
4. Practice grounding techniques
Grounding techniques are exercises you can use to keep yourself present and aware of your surroundings and overcome feelings of distress, panic, anxiety, or anger.
For addicts on the path to recovery, grounding helps acknowledge the situation, slow the pace of things, and reduce stress (a common trigger for relapse).
The grounding method usually involves the 5-4-3-2-1 technique where you think of 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. In the end, you breathe deeply.
Other than 5-4-3-2-1 technique, you can also use body-awareness techniques and mental exercises. Grounding techniques can be used anywhere, anytime, and can help you avoid the flow of negative thoughts.
5. Be aware of HALT
The acronym HALT stands for Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, and Tiredness, the four common threats that compel you to relapse. When these basic needs are unmet, one feels forced to engage in destructive behaviors like substance use.
Keep monitoring yourself to identify if you feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. When you remember any of these feelings, attempt to counter them; eat if you are hungry, vent when angry, seek healthy and sober company, and get enough sleep.
By being on the lookout for these bodily needs (HALT) and healthily addressing them, you can avoid falling into substance use.
Relapse is a very real threat when it comes to recovery from severe drug addiction. Do not neglect this danger, and don’t become overconfident in your ability to remain sober.
Instead, equip yourself with the awareness of techniques that will help you fight the urge to relapse. Seek professional help, look out for relapse triggers, practice meditation and grounding techniques, and watch out for the threat of ‘HALT.’
These methods will help you identify potential threats to your sobriety and fight with them effectively. However, although you must strive for complete sincerity, remember not to give up even if you fail once or twice.