Stop Beating Yourself Up: How to Get Past Relapse

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After completing detox and residential treatment, it can be easy to assume you’ve got this addiction thing beat for the most part. Considering how life was before treatment, it’s a reasonable assumption once you’ve been drug-free for months years at a time.

Unfortunately, addiction has a way of lingering on and creeping up when a person least expects it. In actuality, the likelihood of relapse is par for the course in recovery considering the chronic, ongoing nature of addiction.

If you’ve experienced a relapse episode and have trouble getting past it, there are ways to get back on track and move forward on your recovery path.

The Mechanisms Behind Drug Relapse

For the most part, relapse episodes develop inside a person’s thinking and emotions in response to circumstances that trigger memories of drug use. According to Harvard Health Publications, during the course of drug use, the brain reward system makes associations between the “high” effects of the drug and the conditions under which drug use occurred.

These associations become hard-wired into the brain and take time to undo, which accounts for why relapse can seemingly sneak up on a person out of nowhere. Stress is another precursor to relapse due to the way drugs damage the brain and its ability to manage stress levels.

Ways to Get Past Relapse

Develop a Relapse Prevention Plan

Relapse prevention planning entails identifying your temptations and mental triggers as well as developing a lifestyle plan that supports your efforts in recovery. Supporting your recovery efforts means ensuring you’re in the best physical and mental shape possible so as to avoid being too tired or “battle-weary” to overcome temptations when they arise.

For these reasons, a relapse prevention plan should cover the following areas:

  • Eating healthy
  • Getting proper rest
  • Stress reduction activities, such as going for walks or spending time with friends
  • List the people, places and activities associated with drug use
  • List actions you can take when the urge to use arises, such as calling a friend, journaling or exercising

Attend Support Group Meetings

According to the Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly Journal, attending support group meetings on a regular basis can prove invaluable as a relapse prevention tool and can also offer tremendous support after a relapse event occurs. Twelve-Step support groups in particular incorporate a type of personal development plan into their meeting approach, which can provide a much needed sense of direction when feeling lost inside the recovery process.

Take an Honest Look at Your Condition

Oftentimes, a relapse episode happens when needed treatment supports are lacking in a person’s daily life. If you’re having a really difficult time staying clean or find it hard to avoid circumstances that tempt your ability to abstain, then it may be time to consider seeking out some form of formal treatment if you’re not in a program already.

Considering the chronic nature of addiction and relapse, what’s most important at this point is to pick up where you left off and resume your recovery efforts.