For those who struggle with addiction, getting sober is one thing. Staying sober and avoiding a relapse is another. If you want to do the latter, you need to be realistic and pragmatic.
It’s easy to view addiction as some sort of weakness or temptation. But to strip it down to something so simple is actually doing yourself a disservice.
Addiction is a chronic disease – nothing more and certainly nothing less. It’s not always a matter of gritting your teeth, digging your nails in, and hanging on. It usually requires a much more focused effort. You need a strategy that accounts for the underlying causes of your addiction, as well as the triggers that are most likely to set you off.
Therapists and substance abuse counselors typically view relapse as a process rather than a singular event. And this process is broken down into three stages:
During the emotional stage of relapse, you begin considering using again. Whether it’s brought on by boredom, stress, or anxiety, thoughts of using re-emerge.
Mental relapse follows emotional relapse. At this point, thoughts become desires. The individual decides that they’ll begin using again. Even though they haven’t taken action yet, it’s just a matter of time once the mind is made up.
Finally, physical relapse occurs. This is where the individual begins using again and breaks their sobriety. And as anyone with addiction knows, all it takes is one time to kickstart the cycle of abuse.
What Causes a Relapse?
As you can see, relapse rarely happens as a singular event. There’s almost always a buildup of emotional and mental relapse before the physical relapse ever occurs.
The challenge is finding a way to prevent these initial stages of relapse (so that the physical use never occurs). And at the end of the day, it all comes down to preventing the following factors:
Fear and addiction are often intertwined. An addiction is an intimate thing. And the more you rely on your substance of choice, the scarier it becomes to function without it. Your addiction becomes your comfort, happiness, and relief. It’s the thing you wake up with and go to bed with. It provides relief when there’s pain. To put it simply, it becomes you. Thus, taking that “thing” away produces lots of fear.
- No Plan
You might wake up one morning and decide that you’re done with alcohol or drugs, but that’s not enough. You need a specific plan of action. This plan should account for your triggers and provide solutions that allow you to move past your biggest areas of weakness.
- Lack of Accountability
You can’t get sober on your own. You might do fine for a few days or weeks, but you’ll eventually return to your old habits. There’s something extremely valuable that happens when you align yourself with other people. So if you’re searching for a sobriety center or rehab program, make sure there’s a high level of accountability involved in their approach.
Elysian Sober Services is a great example. Unlike other programs, their counselors/staff members formerly struggled with sobriety. This creates a unique dynamic where the coaches understand the struggles of their clients on a firsthand basis.
Most addicts have some level of doubt attached to their dreams of sobriety. If you’re like others, you can recall times in your past where you’ve tried to get clean, but just couldn’t. As a result, you don’t actually believe you can be sober. So while you might want sobriety, there’s an expectation that you’ll return to the way things were.
- Health Issues
When you feel bad, you’re more likely to return to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. And while there are certain withdrawal symptoms that occur with sobriety, there are a handful of steps you can take to practice healthy living and put your body in a strong position. This includes exercising regularly, eating a nutritious and balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting adequate sleep, and practicing mindfulness meditation or yoga.
Developing a Proactive Approach
Addiction is a disease. And you can’t beat a disease with willpower alone. You need a treatment plan that proactively attacks the underlying problem and paves the way for proper healing.
By addressing concerns and triggers like fear, lack of planning, lack of accountability, doubt, and health issues, you can give yourself a much better chance of succeeding over the long run.
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