No one plans to fail but those who fail to plan may not succeed. No matter how successful we may feel upon completing our initial treatment for substance use, the opportunity for relapse is very real. Today, while you are feeling confident and successful, is the perfect time to make plans for how you can avoid those opportunities for relapse.
Why Relapse Is So Common
Addiction isn’t some voluntary choice that people make. The brain pathways actually change in the reward center of the brain to demand more and more, while the reward becomes less and less. Our minds and bodies unwittingly become enslaved to using substances. This demand is incredibly powerful. Think about it: the brain is the command center of our bodies. Everything we do, including breathing, originates from the brain. To deny the brain’s demand for substance takes a lot more than willpower.
This is why relapse can be common. Maintaining recovery requires constant strength of mind, body and spirit—it’s a lifelong effort. At any time, if you become weak in one of those areas, relapse can occur. This is also why an average of at least 60 percent of people relapse within their first year after treatment. The odds aren’t good—but you don’t have to be part of that statistic.
Prioritize Mental Wellness
To win the battle over a potential relapse, prioritize daily mental wellness. Every day, throughout the day, you can check in with how you are feeling. Are you emotional? Tired? Feeling good? Have a craving? Ask yourself questions about how you are feeling mentally and emotionally. When you take time out to provide yourself with answers, it can help you understand whether or not you need to do anything different.
In general, it’s good to think two steps ahead of your brain and do the things that you know will help you remain strong in your recovery. A big part of mental wellness can include meditation and practicing mindfulness. These tools emotionally and physically strengthen the mind and put you in control. They are evidence-based practices which have been shown to reduce relapse when used consistently.
Self-care is taking the opportunity each day to acknowledge ourselves, who we are and what makes us happy. Self-care can look as simple as reading a favorite book or learning a new skill. These simple acts in which you care for yourself each day will help you remain focused on who you are and what you want in life—it can help safeguard you against relapse.
Carve Out Time for Exercise
Exercise helps fill idle time that you may have previously devoted to substance use. Exercise also helps purify our minds and bodies and mentally and physically recover from the side effects of substance abuse. Perhaps the favorite side effect of exercise is that the endorphins released during exercise create a similar, but healthier, “high” in our bodies, which can help you avoid seeking the unnatural highs again.
Learn Coping Skills
Within treatment, you learn coping skills to help work through cravings. Mindfulness, for example, can be a very powerful tool to use during a craving. Similar to self-care, choose something that is healthy so you don’t fall into your old ways. Go for a walk. Watch something humorous. Make a delicious meal. When you arm yourself with these coping mechanisms, you set yourself up to avoid relapse.
Create a Support Network
Something that is so important to a successful recovery is to create a support network. These should be people that you can lean on at any time of day, that if you were to call at 3 a.m. to help talk you through a craving or a sleepless night, they will still love you when their alarm goes off three hours later. When you have a support network in place, you have backup for those times when you feel depleted or weak. This support helps prevent relapse.
Relapse prevention is not planning to fail but making a conscious effort to continue your success in the addiction recovery journey. At DiscoveryMD, we prioritize relapse prevention because we prioritize you. We know that recovery can feel like a uphill battle but we also know that you are worth it and you can do it. Your success is our success. Contact us today. We can help you plan to succeed.