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Relapse Prevention-Living Life in Recovery | Erica Ives |Mental Health Awareness

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

Relapse Prevention-Living Life in Recovery: Mental Health Awareness

written by Erica Ives

Relapse Prevention-Living Life in Recovery: Mental Health Awareness

Recovery has many ups and downs along its way, with many temptations

to return back to your addiction or eating disorder.

If you are someone on a newer or existing path of recovery, whether from a substance use or an eating disorder, it is so very critical to stay connected to others for support. In this blog post, I am referring to relapse from substance use disorder and eating disorders. According to The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), up to 35% of individuals who abused or were dependent on alcohol or other drugs have also had eating disorders, a rate 11 times greater than the general population.

As you experience all parts of yourself re-awaken, it can become very overwhelming. It as at these times that you need your strength from within, as well as outside support to help continue down a mindfulpath of recovery. Remember, being alone was exactly where you were in your disease, so it surely will not work in your recovery. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 40 to 60 percent of people treated for substance use disorders relapse. Support is key from family, “healthy” peers, communities of recovery, a sponsor, and/or professionals for individual and group therapy, along with a case management services. Accountability and guidance is critical to avoid relapse. Continued work with treatment professionals is extremely beneficial and recommended for your continued physical, emotional, spiritual growth and well-being.

It is so important to have as much awareness as you can about your triggers that initially led you to your addiction because life will always keep knocking on your door.

Triggers can be much more than times of high risk, which can include holidays, exams, divorce, death, stress, as well as relationships, marriage, having a child, and aging. A trigger includes your interpretations and responses to all of these events. They also include emotions, such as loneliness, overwhelm, boredom, or/and fear, To be even more specific, a certain smell or sound, a song you hear on the radio, or simply a particular time of the day can be triggering. So, by becoming more mindful of self on all levels, you will be more likely to continually increase your awareness of your OWN triggers. Then you can make the choice to do something beneficial to your recovery instead of choosing the self-destructive behavior.

If someone you know has relapsed during their recovery process and found their way back to recovery, consider them lucky. Far too often relapse results in an accidental overdose and even death, especially when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse. If they did in fact find their way back to recovery, one can only hope that the “slip” was used as an opportunity to take positive steps to understand what can be different in the future to change the outcome. It is critical to explore what happened step by step and make a new plan for the future. This will increase the likelihood you may not need to rely on your addiction, or other self-destructive behavior the next time you are faced with that same situation, thoughts, and/or feelings. Remember, the shame and guilt that surrounds relapse is enough to drive you to continue in your self-destructive behavior. That critical and demeaning chatter in your head can get loud very quickly. You must have the tools to replace that dangerous mindset.

Here is a brief list of things to do to help to avoid relapse:

  1. Follow the treatment recommendations of your treatment providers.

  2. Stay connected and keep building a strong support system.

  3. Live life a bit slower.

  4. Do one thing mindfully at a time.

  5. Limit your surroundings of temptation.

  6. Learn how to live responsibly as you face continual social pressures.

  7. Acknowledge your successes on a daily basis.

  8. Manage emotions including boredom, loneliness, sadness, and anger.

  9. Reach out to safe people everyday.

  10. Acknowledge your urges and then consciously choose to do something different.

  11. BREATHE, take deep soothing breaths and learn diaphragmatic breathing to walk through an urge.

  12. Listen to your body- get enough sleep, honor your hunger and fullness cues, take care of your health to strengthen your immune system.

  13. Take direction from those who are succeeding in their recovery.

  14. Make sure to have fun.

  15. Find something to laugh and smile about everyday.

  16. You need to feel to heal.

  17. Create an ongoing list of self-affirming affirmations that are realistic and work for you.

Make a point of creating your own relapse prevention list and continually add to this list and make sure it is easily accessible. Relapse prevention work is also an opportunity to stay focused on your strengths. Remember, you are not alone and there is no perfect recovery, only your recovery. The more success you achieve on your journey, see that you can walk through the tough times, reconnect to your healthy self, and experience gratifying and authentic relationships, the more you truly begin to live again.

Should you or someone you know are thinking or speaking about relapse, please utilize our resource page to find sources of support.

All my best, Erica

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