So you have spent a few weeks at an inpatient addiction rehab facility, and you have dealt with some difficult issues. You understand why your addiction happened, and you have learned better ways to cope with stress. Also, you have been taught ways to avoid addiction relapse. Your relationships are on the mend, you have been taking care of your physical health, and you have never felt better.
You feel ready to leave rehab and rejoin the rest of the world. But you quickly discover that it is not as easy as you thought it would be. You are no longer in the cocoon of safety that rehab provided you with. All of a sudden, you have to worry about your daily routines, paying the bills, and being constantly around the relationships that you were gently and slowly working on rebuilding.
And before you know it, you find yourself fighting the kind of craving you thought you had left behind forever. Why is it so difficult to transition from rehab to real life? Why do addiction relapses happen? And most importantly, what can you do to protect yourself? Keep reading to find out all the answers that you need.
Why Does Relapse Happen?
One of the first things you should know before you even enter an addiction treatment program is that recovery does not end when rehab is over. For many people, it is a lifelong process that involves support groups, therapy, fitness regimens and a lot of determination.
But if the whole point of rehab is to help you overcome an addiction, shouldn’t it be easier to fight relapse? A lot of the answer comes down to how you manage the transition from your inpatient rehab program back to the real world.
Take a moment to think about the rehab environment: you have food and shelter, you have a schedule that is decided for you, you have round-the-clock support any time you need it, and you don’t have access to drugs or alcohol. Even if you have a craving, there’s no way for you do anything about it. The only thing that craving can do is go away.
When you’re back home, all of this changes. You no longer have a schedule that tells you where you have to be at what time. If you’re not employed, you suddenly have great stretches of time that you have to find ways to fill.
A lot of people are fine until they run up against a stressful event. This could take a number of forms, such as:
- Your first post-rehab argument with your spouse
- Being turned down for a job
- Carefully laid out plans for the day being disrupted
- Receiving a phone call from someone who used to use drugs with you
The scary part is that, unlike when you were in rehab, you now have access to the substances you are craving. The good news is that you can set your life up in a way that makes it easier for you to avoid relapse.
Related article: Preventing Addiction Relapse: What You Need To Do
Lifestyle Tips To Prevent Drug Addiction Relapse
To make sure that you avoid drug addiction relapse, follow these helpful tips:
The first thing you should do when you leave rehab is get connected with a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Many recovering addicts actually start this process during their inpatient treatment phase, and when you leave, it’s simply a case of continuing the same routine, but with a group that is convenient to where you live.
12-step programs are very effective at helping people prevent relapse, for several reasons:
- You can connect with people who understand what you are going through
- The 12-step program gives you specific tasks, which can give you a sense of purpose – and a sense of accomplishment when you complete them
- You can form lasting friendships that will make it easier for you to stay away from the people you used to use drugs or alcohol with
- It provides you with a support system that you can turn to in times of crisis
- Most communities have many 12-step programs to choose from, so you will be able to find one that is the right fit for you
The 12-step community has done a lot to make their system inclusive and easy to find, but there will always be those who are not able to participate in the meetings. There can be several reasons for this:
- You live in a small community where it’s difficult to find a group that you feel comfortable in
- You suffer from social anxiety that makes attendance at group meetings difficult and stressful
- You have a physical disability and there are no accessible groups near you
- You simply feel more comfortable interacting with people online
The advent and evolution of the internet has made it increasingly easy to find online recovery communities, not only for those who cannot or will not attend meetings, but for those who need additional support between meetings.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram provide recovering addicts with a way to ask for advice, give and receive support, and celebrate their sobriety milestones. There is also an abundance of educational material posted online, such as videos, podcasts, sobriety tracking tools, and educational programs.
Being physically active has multiple benefits. Not only does it improve your physical and mental health, it provides a natural release of dopamine – the feel-good hormone that spikes after drug use. Many recovering addicts cope with cravings by engaging in rigorous exercise like running and weightlifting. By the time they are done, the craving is gone, because that elevation in dopamine has been accomplished in a healthy, natural way.
You don’t have to run a marathon to raise your dopamine, levels, though. Just going for a 20-minute walk can reduce your stress levels and make it easier for you to cope.
Addiction relapse usually results from the recovering addict being unable to cope with certain triggers and temptations. A highly effective way of managing this is through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is designed to help you achieve a specific goal.
In this case, the goal is to successfully show you how to avoid addiction relapse. CBT can help you identify your triggers, along with healthier ways of dealing with them. So when you experience a craving, you will have the tools and techniques to overcome them.
Do Something Fun
When you emerge from inpatient addiction treatment and immerse yourself in the world of 12-step programs and therapy, you may find that your life more or less revolves around your quest to stay sober. While this is important, it can be overwhelming, and it can be helpful to find an interest or activity that has nothing to do with addiction.
Everyone needs balance and the opportunity to have some fun, and there are many ways of doing this without needing drugs or alcohol. Examples include sporting activities, dance classes and book clubs. Volunteering is also a great way to do something that makes you feel good, that also helps other people.
What To Do If You Are In Immediate Danger Of Relapse
Putting together lifestyle changes that set you up for success is a critical element in preventing addiction relapse. But these things can take time to implement: it may take a couple of weeks for you to find a 12-step program that works for you, and support systems don’t just spring up overnight.
So what happens if you are experiencing a craving that seems overpowering? How then do you avoid an addiction relapse? There are some things that you can do in the moment that can get you over the danger.
- First and foremost, call someone, whether it is a family member, a sponsor, or the support line at you rehab facility
- Drink some water and have a snack, because your body may be interpreting thirst or hunger as a craving
- Do some physical activity, like running or weightlifting, to give yourself a natural dopamine boost
- Ensure that you distance yourself from the object of the craving: if you are anywhere near drugs or alcohol, leave and go to a safe place
The first month after leaving rehab is when your risk is at its peak. If you get through that first month, your chances of relapsing drop sharply. It is difficult in the beginning, but it does get easier.
And if you do suffer a relapse, whether it is after a day, a month, or several years, just try again. It is important that you regard relapse as a setback, and not a disaster. If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t be too hard on yourself: use it as a learning experience that will help you as you move forward in your new life.
Call 1000 Islands Addiction Rehab & Treatment Centre for addiction treatment programs.