Relapse prevention

The importance of aftercare in preventing relapse

What is relapse prevention?

Relapse is the return to a dangerous use of an addictive substance after a period of restrained use and improvement. Relapse prevention is the approach to stopping this.

Relapsing can be brought on by many factors, often occurring simultaneously, such as mental exhaustion, physical stress, anxiety, or powerful cravings. The goal of relapse prevention is to teach patients how to identify the patterns, behaviours, and stressors associated with relapse in order to maintain their recovery and prevent falling back into active addiction.

Relapse prevention can incorporate many skills and strategies to reduce an individual’s potential for relapse, from deep breathing and meditation exercises, to group therapy and exercise routines, and much more.

The importance of aftercare in rehab

Recovering from addiction is a long process with many stages. Personal growth and discovery can only be achieved over time, and at any stage of recovery the possibility for relapse unfortunately exists.

Indeed, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that between 40 percent and 60 percent of individuals recovering from substance abuse or addiction will experience relapse at some point in their recovery journey. This is why it is critical for individuals undergoing rehabilitation to learn techniques that will help them manage their substance use in the long term.

The principle of aftercare in relapse prevention is to create a strategy that helps patients remain on their path to sobriety. A proper aftercare plan will provide the necessary tools to succeed in all stages of recovery, reducing the chance a patient will relapse and assisting them in their goals after they leave rehab.

Aftercare can include both guided assistance, such as patient interviews, support groups, and sober housing, as well as individual and self-help measures like deep breathing exercises, fitness routines, and other coping skills. With a strong aftercare plan, patients are better equipped to face potential challenges to their sobriety with healthy solutions. This will increase their long-term success with recovery.

Emotional relapse: how to maintain your mental health after rehab

Emotional relapse is the first stage in a return to substance abuse. It is therefore critical to address and understand how to control your mindset once out of rehab. At this stage, thoughts or temptations of using have not yet occurred, but negative or self-destructive behaviours begin to sabotage one’s long-term recovery. Anxiety, mood swings, poor eating and sleeping habits, or failing to follow a set aftercare plan are all signs of emotional relapse. This, in turn, can lead to greater mental and physical struggles and an increased risk of a return to substance abuse.

The best ways to avoid emotional relapse are centred in self-care. Self-care will vary for every individual. For many people self-care includes both physical and mental measures to ensure a strong emotional wellbeing. Physical self-care means looking after oneself through positive habits in one’s diet, exercise, and sleep patterns, as well as taking measures to reduce one’s levels of stress and increase feelings of relaxation.

Mental and emotional self-care are all about an increased level of self-awareness. By actively working towards a healthier understanding of one’s emotions and triggers, patients can learn to treat themselves with greater respect, be more honest with themselves, and start to feel better about who they are.

The stages of recovery

Although recovery is different for everyone, it can be useful to break down one’s journey into stages to better understand the process:

1. Abstinence stage

During this first stage, a person stops using and starts on their path to sobriety. It is important at this stage to form good habits and curb dangerous behaviors to lay the groundwork for lasting success.

Accepting the reality of one’s situation and addiction, practicing self-care, removing oneself from enabling people or environments, and seeking help, are all key in the abstinence stage.

2. Repair stage

The second stage of recovery focuses on repairing damage caused by addiction and substance abuse. Therapy, relationship building, continued or expanded self-care and self-forgiveness are all requisite parts of repairing one’s mind and body and avoiding relapse.

3. Growth stage

Where the Repair stage is about mending things that were broken, the growth stage is about achieving new heights. This is a stage that will continue long into one’s life, as growth signals an end to addiction and the skills learned and practiced in rehab are key to avoiding relapse.

Challenging one’s fears, developing an aftercare program, letting go of negativity and learning new life skills are all a part of this stage.

The 10 relapse prevention rules

  1. Get Help: You are not in this alone. Contact a recovery centre for treatment and rehabilitation.
  2. Know Your Triggers: Better understanding your triggers helps to curb them.
  3. Remember to H.A.L.T.: The five most common triggers (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired) are important to remember so one can take stock of their frustrations and ‘halt’ the chance of relapse.
  4. Practice Self-Care:Both physical and mental self-care are the foundation for positive wellbeing.
  5. Take It Slow: Recovery is a journey, not a single event. Stay committed and appreciate your own individual path.
  6. Social Support: Find peers and support groups to help communicate and share in the path to recovery.
  7. Manage Cravings: Accepting that cravings will happen and learning how to move past them helps reduce the desire to use.
  8. Reduce Stress: Finding ways to feel balanced and at peace will reduce frequent causes of relapse like stress and anxiety.
  9. Be More Mindful: Awareness of one’s self and one’s situation helps to manage triggers and cope with difficult situations.
  10. Engage in Aftercare: Even after treatment is over, it is critical to engage in both guided and self-help measures through a strong aftercare program.

What to do next if you do relapse

Relapse may be a setback, but it is not a failure. Regaining control is still possible and using relapse as an opportunity to grow and refocus one’s efforts can prevent it from happening again.

It is important to not beleaguer oneself with feelings of guilt or shame after relapsing, as such thoughts can push an individual into a continued cycle of substance use. Reach out to a counsellor, a trusted friend, or a treatment specialist to help get you back on track.

Remember that recovery is not an all-or-nothing process; relapse does not mean one should abandon their goals or give up on their recovery journey.

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