National Recovery Month: Preventing Emotional Relapse
September is National Recovery Month, and to celebrate Harbor Village will release a 30 day series dedicated to helping those seeking recovery get the help they need, arming recoverers with information critical for recovery; but since it is recovery month, we’ll have information for those already well on their way to recovery- who may have already graduated from a rehabilitation program.
We’ll focus on relapse today, because so many suffer from relapse and become derailed and never get back on the road to recovery. Understanding that relapse is not the end of recovery is the first thing you have to embrace! We all relapse, break New Year’s resolutions, promises to stop eating junk food, and adopt the pets we’re only supposed to “foster.” (Yes okay, I have a mild cat problem.) But knowing that relapse isn’t the end is something many recovering addicts struggle with. Relapse is not a sign of failure, only an indicator something has gone awry.
So let’s fix it!
Treating relapse with relapse prevention is one of the most effective means for stopping it from happening altogether, or ever again. There are three main stages of relapse (and sub stages in each category- but we’ll stick with emotional relapse this time around).
You can actually talk yourself into relapse quite easily if you’re not using other means of coping with whatever is going on in your life. Without utilizing other coping techniques to circumvent stress, depression, or anger, relapse is almost guaranteed!
But what should you do?
What Is Emotional Relapse?
Emotional relapse is the state fomenting inevitable relapse. When you begin to feel overwhelmed this is the time to act. Alleviating your state of jagged emotion is crucial in preventing disaster. This is the point where you should reach out to your support group, and open up about whatever is troubling you. Simply talking about the emotions pent up inside of you can prevent bouts of relapse- since relapse is the release of the emotions you were unable to let go of or reconcile with.
Fighting Emotional Relapse
But what if you have trouble opening up, even to the people closest to you?
Write them letters! Sometimes it’s easier to let yourself be vulnerable without actually telling your friends and loved ones directly. Writing is therapeutic and can help you figure out why you feel the way you do. If you free write, or write what you think as it comes to you, you may be surprised what’s itching to come out of you. But what if you’re embarrassed about what you’ve written?
You don’t necessarily have to share your letters with the people they were intended for- but remember, if you don’t share what’s going on inside of you, no one will know. Are you willing to risk relapse by not letting the people around you in? Part of learning to love yourself again is accepting the love from the people around you.
And they don’t have to be “letters.” Jump on Facebook and send a message about how you’re feeling. If you want to talk to a third party, there are plenty of support groups willing to listen. I spend my weekends talking to people who are struggling to get help even when I’m out of the office. Feel free to message us on Facebook too! Always remember you are worthy- even if you don’t feel like you are sometimes.
Let me guess, you hate writing?
There are multiple ways to express yourself to your friends and family indirectly , without writing novellas about how you’re feeling. You may try a colorful collection of photos- which admittedly may be a lot of work. A simple emoji can convey your feelings too. But of course, this approach will make your loved one guess at what’s going on inside of your head. Unfortunately, they’re not mind readers.
Try using a “recovery word” that signals the need for distraction and stress relief! Go running, meet up for a meditation session, or go play a sport. Get active, stay busy, and invite healthy distractions. The more you involve yourself in during recovery, the less time you have to let harmful emotions put you in jeopardy.
Go Back to the Things You Love
Something I like to do when I’m absolutely inconsolable is return to the movies, music, and shows I loved at the happiest points in my life. Sure, it makes me a bit nostalgic, but the latent emotions those stimuli trigger in my mind help me overcome the turmoil that can be hard to shake. It’s critical you don’t listen to movies, music, or engage in other activities that will remind you of using- that’s a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
Instead consider immersing yourself into a new “addiction.” Devote yourself to learning something you’ve always wanted to learn about. Check out every book, watch every video, read every blog post and article on the internet you can find about it, and become a self proclaimed expert in whatever you choose. We live in the age of information, use it to distract you and be productive!
Read these articles for more relapse prevention goodness!
How do you fight your feelings and get yourself into a happier state of mind?
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.