Overcoming addiction is an achievement indeed, and many people consider this the proverbial finish line in the battle against substance abuse. However, the reality is that it is just the beginning of another long and oftentimes more difficult journey—that of ensuring that you don’t go back to your old ways.
The prospect of a relapse itself is enough to strike fear and anxiety.This is understandable, since many factors come into play, such as pressure from family and friends—or even yourself—to succeed in keeping yourself sober or clean. There may also be constant reminders about your previous life that remain in your home, workplace, or community. These can serve as temptations that lead you back to the very substances that you have fought hard to avoid.
But just what is a relapse actually? Simply put, it means going back to consuming drugs or alcohol after a period of being clean or sober. This may be a conscious decision on your part, such as when you feel you’ve had enough or that you deserve a reward for all the hard work that you’ve put into being on the straight and narrow. On the other hand, it may also occur without your knowing, such as when you unwittingly consume an alcohol- or-drug laced drink, for instance.
However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Relapsing may take weeks or months of emotional and mental processes that leads you to the ultimate act of finally taking that one drink or that one dose of drug. That’s why it is important for you to be aware of your feelings and actions. Battling the strong desire to take up your bad habit may lead to negative emotions and isolation, which puts you at further risk. Mentally, you may start making rationalizations about your past behavior, which sets up the stage for you to find it acceptable to go back to your old ways.
The good news is that all is not lost if you do experience a relapse. That’s why it is important to be aware and informed about the condition so that you can take control of it. Here are key things to keep in mind in the event that you find yourself under an addiction relapse:
Don’t blame yourself.
All individuals who have recovered from substance abuse are at risk of relapsing. It is a problem that is more common than you think. Don’t be too hard on yourself and add to the pressure that you may be feeling from your surroundings. By recognizing your situation, you can be ready to do something about it.
Don’t be afraid to seek help.
Avoid feelings of self-pity or withdrawal due to shame. This is the proper time to talk to trusted loved ones or to approach a health professional. Information service providers such as Better Addiction Care would be best equipped to get you back on track on your journey to recovery. Through the right interventions and a stable support group, you can regain clarity and address substance abuse more effectively.
Don’t think twice about protecting yourself.
Emotions such as guilt and shame may also make you vulnerable to a lot of harmful external forces. This is a time for you to keep your welfare in mind, and this may mean keeping distance from people who may not exactly have your best interests at heart. These are individuals who may be persuading you to take up drugs or alcohol once more. You should also physically distance yourself from the actual substances that you need to avoid. You may be mentally and physically weak to fight off these temptations, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
Don’t hesitate to love yourself.
At this point, it is important that you take care of yourself in all aspects—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Stick to the basics of keeping fit and healthy by eating balanced meals, getting adequate sleep, and engaging in exercise. Relax by indulging in yoga or meditation, or by pampering yourself at a spa. Avoid stress and engage in wholesome activities such as reading, gardening or any other hobby that you love doing.
Don’t just wing it.
Addiction will not just disappear from your life. In line with seeking professional help and guidance, you need to come up with a relapse prevention plan that will help mitigate any future risks. Coming up with such a plan entails identifying and being aware of your addiction or substance abuse triggers, and listing a set of concrete actions or steps that you can take to address these. It is vital to be aware of the skills you need to cope and address addiction so you can draw on them when you need to, and you don’t feel helpless or confused.
At the end of the day, treat your relapse as an opportunity to prove to yourself and others that you are stronger and more capable than you think you are. It is also a valuable opportunity to serve as an example to others and to inspire them that recovery is always possible, and there is no shame in facing the constant challenges of substance abuse.