Something you will hear going to 12-step meetings is “relapse is part of recovery”. In my opinion it doesn’t have to be. However, if you do relapse it’s OK. What is important is that it’s a short relapse, get back to a meeting or into treatment. It is easy to beat yourself up after you relapse, to tell yourself you are never going to be able to get it right, but that is the disease of addiction talking. There are ways to avoid relapsing.
- If you feel the urge to use, wait it out. I suggest distracting yourself, try going for a walk, watching a tv show or running an errand. After 30 minutes it is likely the intensity of your craving will diminish.
- Replace your past drug use with positive activities. This can be more challenging than it sounds, we tend to forget and lose interest in things while we use. However, if your routine was to pass by the liquor store after work, you’ll need to try something new, try doing something like going to the park, working out or calling a friend. Another great option would be to go to a meeting.
- DON’T DO THIS ALONE. I can not stress the importance of asking for help and building up a support network. Share your goals for sobriety with your friends and family, so that they can hold you accountable. Go to meetings and get a sponsor, another great source of accountability.
- Positive self-talk/ Remind yourself that cravings will pass. It is easy to feel like you are stuck in this endless loop of wanting to use but knowing you cant. Be kind to yourself, remind yourself that it will pass and that you are worthy of sobriety.
- Have a relapse prevention plan, things can get dicey and difficult. Bad things happen, we have unexpected setbacks – you lose your job, an important romantic relationship ends, or you experience the loss of a loved one. Develop a plan to get through major life challenges, without using drugs.
- Sacrifice your rituals – If every time you watched a football game, went to a birthday party or celebrated a holiday (st. Patrick’s day) you’ll need to make some changes. This could mean that you create a new tradition, like having wings and pizza during games or you don’t go out for typical drinking holidays like St. Patrick’s day.
- Avoid Complacency. It is easy to tell yourself “It’s just a glass of wine.” Or “I’m only going to smoke weed” or “I’m just going to drink a beer” that is your disease lying to you. It is a slippery slope and more than likely, those decisions – that beer will bring you back to full blown addiction.
- Don’t make excuses. It is easy to say you are too busy to go to a meeting, or that nobody wants to talk to you when you are feeling down or having a craving. Find the time, call your friend. Let someone in your support network hold you accountable.
Don’tgive up. It is that simple, if you relapse you need to tell yourself. “I can’t change what has happened, but I can choose not to use tomorrow” recovery is a series of making the next best choice. Each slip up isn’t a failure, it is a learning experience.