The journey toward sobriety is all about regaining control. In the midst of a substance use addiction, it can feel like drugs or alcohol are making the decisions for you: where to go, who to spend time with, how to spend your money and so forth. Living as a slave to addiction is a nightmare, and breaking free put you in charge of your own life again.
The recovery process is all about reversing this dictatorship over your life and regaining the power to live freely. Through detox and treatment, you’ll learn the essential skills of fighting off physical urges to return to substance use. After you complete inpatient treatment and return to the pattern of daily life, you’ll find there are still triggers to fight off.
Avoiding relapse is a priority even after concluding formal treatment. If you’re struggling to transition to this stage of recovery, here’s what you need to know about how to avoid relapse and some key relapse prevention activities that can make a difference in your sobriety.
How to avoid relapse
Learning how to avoid relapse isn’t something that you can learn in a day. Identifying the root causes of your substance use, assessing your triggers, finding calming strategies that work, setting goals and assessing progress are all things that take time and real-life experience to get right.
If you’re in the process of discovering how to avoid relapse, you know better than anyone that it’s not an easy process and the effort is a long haul. You also know better than anyone that the alternative, returning to a full-fledged addiction, is worth the hard work to avoid. Preventing relapse, through whatever means necessary, is much better than remaining trapped in self-destructive habits.
Relapse prevention techniques
Choosing sobriety is a daily commitment. While there are several big-picture changes that can be made to support a sober lifestyle, like moving to a new neighborhood or changing social circles, it’s also paramount to change your daily habits. Your choices, actions and activities in your everyday life are the clearest demonstrations of how serious you are about recovery.
Start prioritizing your healing by making adjustments to your daily schedule today with these relapse-prevention techniques.
Schedule your day
One of the keys to avoiding relapse is preventing triggers to the best of your ability. Preparedness is the best defense against numerous feelings such as boredom, apathy and nostalgia, which can creep in and lead to enticing thoughts regarding drugs and alcohol. In low moments, substances can feel more alluring, and scheduling your day can target times when you’re most likely to feel down.
Spend some time at the beginning of the week blocking out your schedule. Block out time for work, meals, exercise, grocery shopping and so forth. See where there are empty blocks and determine an activity for that time (even if it’s cleaning, taking a walk or doing a puzzle). The tasks can be productive or relaxing. The key is to avoid giving yourself a span of time with nothing to do. That’s when your addictive urges and habits will kick in and in the past you will find something to fill the time.
2. Eat well
Emerging from detox and inpatient treatment your body is likely to be depleted, worn and weak. Drugs and alcohol often numb the body to feelings of hunger and discomfort, and nutrition is pushed to the side. In an addicted lifestyle, eating well rarely seems like a priority, and your body is hurting from those months or years of a low-quality diet.
Reversing the effects of addiction often requires a reset in terms of eating. In order for your body to function best, aim to target certain nutrients that those who struggle with substance use are often lacking, including Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. These can all help to restore prime functioning.
When you were caught up in substance use when your body didn’t feel well you likely sought substances. One of the best relapse prevention activities is working to intersect this engrained habit, and instead, replenish your body with food when you’re feeling poor physically.
3. Aim for healthy movement every day
Quickly switching from no exercise to an intense daily workout is not a good idea, but adding some form of daily movement to your routine is one of the top relapse-prevention activities. Exercise is important for your joints, muscles and weight management, and it also has numerous neurological benefits, such as improved mood and boosted confidence according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Whether you take up walking outside, sign up for a dance class, join a gym, swim or play pickleball, you’ll find a healthy activity that is both enjoyable and good for your body. Exercise doesn’t have to cost money and can be adapted for any lifestyle or ability level, and can be done independently or with friends.
No matter what you do, regular movement can make you feel better physically and mentally, preventing relapse in the long run.
4. Prioritize regular sleep
Many people disregard sleep as extraneous to recovery. In reality, one of the best and easiest ways how to avoid relapse is through quality sleep. During sleep, your body stores memories and information expels toxins, restore brain functioning, builds up new stores of energy and releases hormones.
The tasks that your body does during sleep can only happen during sleep, so cutting yourself short on your nightly rests means your body is running behind. Exhaustion can affect your mood, leading to irritability, anger and stress. Feeling down and having insufficient rest are a bad combination, and could easily invite triggers to relapse.
5. Spend time with others
Daily social interaction is an important activity for those in recovery from substance use. Isolation is often a top trigger to relapse, and if this rings true for you it’s critical that you schedule regular times to interact with others. Aim to spend at least 30 minutes with a friend or family member daily.
Especially if you work from home or your job requires little to no social interaction, you’ll want to schedule numerous social outings throughout the week. Consider meeting up with a close friend a few mornings a week, joining a workout class with your sibling or spending your lunch chatting with coworkers you enjoy.
There’s no reason for recovery to be a lonely road. Spend time with others and share your intentions for sobriety. Your community will likely reach out to you if you express that social time is a relapse-prevention activity you’re implementing in your life.
Reaching out for help
If you’re wondering about the number one trick for how to avoid relapse, it’s knowing when to take preventative measures. If you are struggling to resist urges to use drugs or alcohol, and have noticed it becoming more difficult day by day, that’s a sure sign that it’s time to reach out for help with professional substance use treatment services.
Recovery is a difficult road, and there’s no shame in experiencing setbacks. The best thing you can do in your search for freedom is to get reconnected with treatment today.
Not sure where to turn? Check out Real Recovery. With a variety of program options, compassionate staff and evidence-based treatment, you can find the care you need to address substance use and mental health issues. Contact us today to learn more.