Six Ways to Avoid Relapse

choicesRecovery is fantastic, but there is that other “R” word that nobody likes to think about – relapse. Even considering the possibility of relapse can be frightening, but understanding some of the things that often lead to relapse can help prevent it. Here are six common ways that people relapse.

Number 6: It’s not what I’m addicted to.

A common belief that many people have is that they can use a different substance rather than their substance of choice, and not get caught up in addiction. Often people will say something like, “Oh I can drink responsibly and be fine. I never had a problem with alcohol; pain pills are what I was addicted to.” Or, “Yes I know I can’t drink anymore, but I’m still going to smoke a little weed.”

A June 6, 2012, article “Avoiding Substitute Addictions” in Elements of Behavioral Health, discusses the dangers of trading one addiction for another. They say, “Those who recover from addiction itself, rather than one substance, are more successful on average. They are more likely to stay sober without repeats than those who take on substitute addictions.”

Transfer of addiction can happen quickly; it is a slippery slope that is best avoided. Why risk it?

Number 5: Getting caught in negative thinking makes for a bad day.

Negative thinking can feel awful and seem overwhelming, but low-mood thinking can’t be trusted. Being aware that you are in a low mood, and knowing not to act while you in that mood can prevent relapse. When in a low mood, it is easy to get caught in the “what’s the use, I can’t do this”, or the “using will make me feel better” thinking. Understanding that a low mood will pass and not fearing them makes them less frightening.

Negative thoughts are like the snow in a snow globe; they settle when you stop shaking them. When the negative thoughts stop, clearer, more positive thoughts replace them. Don’t lose your recovery because of a temporary depressed mood. It will pass.

Number 4: Follow your aftercare plan.

When completing a treatment program, it is important to have a plan for transitioning back to “normal” life. That plan should include transitional care with an aftercare professional who is supportive and helpful. This might be a therapist, a support group, or a continuing education provider who you can connect with, and who understands challenges that someone in early recovery faces. Support is crucial in avoiding relapse.

Fun should be a part of your aftercare plan too. Life without substances doesn’t have to be boring. Learn something new or plan activities with friends who support your sobriety. Enjoy being substance free.

Number 3: Proving you are okay.

Sometimes people believe they need to “face their demons” to prove that they are indeed okay. For someone who has had problems with alcohol to go with their old drinking buddies to their typical Saturday night bar with the intent of just drinking ginger ale, is a dangerous plan. Being respectful of your sobriety and nurturing it is much safer. Why risk putting yourself in a place of temptation. Allow your sobriety to strengthen without the need to prove you are okay.

Number 2: Building unhealthy relationships with others in early recovery.

People meet and build strong friendships while they are in recovery programs. Sometimes those people decide to move in together and believe they can help each other. Or they meet someone and decide that person is their soul mate and start romantic relationships. In early recovery, it is safest to practice healthy selfishness. Healthy selfishness understands that you have to put yourself and your sobriety first. Taking care of yourself means keeping the focus on what is best for you.

Involving another person who is new in their recovery process has each of you focusing more on each other, or the friendship, or romantic relationship than on what you need to do – for you – to keep your sobriety on track. Take some time to build strength in your sobriety and then allow friendships or romantic relationships to come into your world. Don’t rush it!

Number 1: Now I know how to use and not get caught.

One of the most common misconceptions people have when they become sober is that they then know how much they can use and not get trapped in their addiction. Let’s face it; many people very much enjoyed the feeling they got from their substance of choice, and they want that feeling again, but without the addiction. So the plan becomes, to use responsibly. It doesn’t work. The pathways that your brain built during addiction are very quickly reactivated if you use again. Becoming re-addicted is a quick process, don’t risk it.


Understanding these six ways to avoid relapse can help you to maintain an active, healthy recovery. Enjoy it!


If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction call us at 855-433-4480 for more information about how
Gulf Breeze Recovery could help you or your loved ones today.

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