Why Do People Relapse?
Recovering from a substance use disorder is one of the most challenging things you’ll ever undertake. You will likely encounter obstacles on the journey to physical, mental and spiritual wellness, and you’ll need to develop coping skills to help you manage stressors and support your new sober lifestyle. A relapse is one example of a setback that can challenge your motivation.
For many people, a relapse is part of the recovery process. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates for recovering substance abusers are around 40 to 60% – comparable to other chronic diseases like asthma and hypertension. A relapse can occur for many reasons, including stress and anger. While a return to substance abuse can be discouraging, it doesn’t mean you have failed. However, it does indicate that you need to develop new strategies for managing relapse triggers and attending to your self-care. Here are some you can try.
1. Mindfulness Meditation
It’s no exaggeration to call drugs and alcohol mind-altering substances. They fundamentally alter your brain chemistry by rewiring its reward pathways so you no longer feel like yourself when you are sober. Fortunately, the human brain is a remarkably plastic organ, which means these changes are not permanent. Meditation can change your brain for the better, reducing some of the harm done during an active addiction. It’s also an excellent tool for relieving stress and other complex emotions and improving your outlook.
While you may have enjoyed writing in a diary as a teenager, many people don’t maintain a journaling habit into adulthood. However, writing in a journal can be a tremendously beneficial relapse prevention strategy. Looking back on previous entries can give you some perspective on all the progress you’ve made in your recovery. You can also spot negativity and other thought patterns that might warn of an impending relapse.
3. Find Support
If you’re working to maintain your sobriety, it’s essential to surround yourself with positive people who understand what you’re trying to achieve and want to see you succeed. These people can keep you accountable to your recovery goals and remind you to stay motivated and upbeat. If you’ve had to cut ties with anyone who is trying to undermine your progress or whose negativity is harming your mental health, you can find new friends in a 12-step program or a similar recovery group.
4. Set Attainable Goals
Some people unwittingly self-sabotage by creating unrealistic or vague goals, then berating themselves when they fall short of their target. Instead of setting yourself up for disappointment, be reasonable with the expectations you set for yourself. Achieve your goals incrementally – build one week of sobriety into two, then three, then a whole month. Break ambitious goals into small, actionable steps, and don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishment when you achieve each one.
5. Practice Self-Compassion
A negative inner monologue is another way you might be setting yourself back. If you tell yourself you aren’t worthy of happiness or success often enough, it won’t be too long before you start believing it. Pay attention to your self-talk and note every time it is unproductive or hurtful. You can then take steps to be kinder to yourself, such as writing positive affirmations on Post-It notes and leaving them in various locations around your house.
6. Enroll in Outpatient Treatment
A return to substance use after a period of sustained sobriety may indicate a need for additional treatment. Perhaps you haven’t fully addressed the root causes of your addiction, or you have a dual diagnosis that has compounded your problems. In that case, seeking an outpatient treatment program can be an excellent relapse prevention strategy if you need additional support. In an outpatient program, you can find peer support with more independence, allowing you to seek employment while you pursue the next phase of your recovery process.
Experience the Beach House Difference
Since our founding in 2016, Beach House has pursued our goal of being one of the nation’s top treatment facilities for men and women dealing with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. To learn more about making us part of your relapse prevention strategy, please contact us today.