One of the most effective tools we have to prevent relapse is simply being aware of the most common, triggering situations that recovering addicts should avoid. No matter how dedicated, stable, or confident we feel, it’s important to remember that recovery isn’t a guarantee. Any recovering addict could potentially slide back into relapse if they’re not careful.
Relapse Facts and Statistics:
Before we discuss the 5 situations that recovering addicts should avoid, let’s briefly go over the key points we need to know about relapse. Afterall, the point of avoiding these situations is to reduce our odds of cravings, slipping into old habits, and ultimately relapsing into addiction again.
- Most recovering addicts (about 40%-60%) will relapse at some point in their lives. Now, that may seem discouraging, but it doesn’t have to be. Since relapse is the norm, we can stop thinking of it as a failure and start thinking of it as a part of the journey. It’s frustrating and dangerous, but we can still pick ourselves back up and continue on the road to recovery.
- Relapse is most likely to happen during the first 6 months of recovery, but it can still happen at any time.
- Relapse happens in 3 phases:
- Emotional Relapse
- Mental Relapse
- Physical Relapse – It’s not until this final stage that we actually pick up and use drugs or alcohol again.
- Triggers are anything that cause cravings to flare up for your drug of choice. These can include people, places, things, feelings, images, ideas, words, phrases, and more.
The 5 Common Situations that Recovering Addicts Should Avoid
- THE OLD HAUNTS
It’s no surprise that visiting the places where we used to drink and use during active addiction is a powerful trigger. Bars, parties, old friends’ apartments… these are situations that recovering addicts should avoid as much as possible. Not only are they tempting, but they can also bring up old, painful emotions and trigger intense cravings.
- STRESSING OUT TOO MUCH
Taking on more obligations than we can realistically handle is a major relapse risk. That’s because getting excessively stressed out triggers cravings, physical discomfort, and difficult emotions. It’s one of the most common situations that recovering addicts should avoid.
Have you ever heard of a workaholic? It’s a funny term, but that doesn’t mean it’s not accurate to compare addicts with those people who work way too much for their own good. A lot of people in recovery start to work excessively in order to escape their emotions. Since work is financially rewarding and appears responsible, it doesn’t seem like an issue at first. However, eventually the stress starts to take its toll on our mental health which increases our odds of relapsing.
- RELYING EXCESSIVELY ON PRESCRIPTION OR OTC MEDICATION
Over-medicating is hard to admit because we always have a good enough reason for taking what we take. A few Ibuprofen, some cough syrup and Benadryl at night or even a painkiller or anxiety pill here and there if your doctor prescribed it…. These things aren’t solo bad, but still, abusing seemingly harmless medication is one of the situations that recovering addicts should avoid.
It is a sign of emotional relapse, which is the first of the three phases of relapse. It means we’re feeling bad, and looking for an instant fix which is exactly what we do during active addiction with our drug of choice. So, if you find yourself over-medicating, try to tune into the source of your discomfort. Address those symptoms of depression or anxiety; don’t ignore them. Mood disorders often manifest as aches and pains, which might be why we tend to cope with meds. You should also have an honest conversation with your doctor about your history of addiction. He or she may be able to help correct, alter your treatment plan to minimize the risk of relapse.
It’s important to note that cautiously and sparingly using medication only when it’s truly necessary is not the issue. The issue is compulsively looking for a chemical quick-fix for problems that are emotional in nature.
This is a 4 for 1 deal because HALT stand for: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These are four common situations that recovering addicts should avoid as much as possible. Feelings like these can reduce our willpower and make us subconsciously crave and seek out our DOC (drug of choice).
Recovery is a complicated path. However, simply taking the time to eat well and get decent rest can make that complicated path much more walkable. Also, being extra cautious whenever we find ourselves feeling lonely and angry is crucial. If we’re aware of the effects of mood, we can try to balance out our impulses with conscious decision-making.
This might come off as extreme for some, but dating is certainly one of the common situations that recovering addicts should avoid during their first 6-12 months of sobriety.
Dating is messy. Sometimes it seems like the whole point of it is to either hurt or get hurt first (it’s not, by the way) which is a dangerous game to play for recovering addicts. During the first few months of recovery, we need to be careful. Our emotions are going to be hard to handle at first and using drug-free coping mechanisms will still feel a little bit strange. Until we’re on solid ground, it’s hard enough to just get by, let alone date.
Finishing treatment and getting clean is an impressive accomplishment. That doesn’t mean the hard work is over though. We still have to keep up with our self-care and avoid these triggering situations. If you’re struggling with relapse right now, and can’t fix it on your own, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Remember, relapse is very common, and it doesn’t mean failure; we can always get right back up on the ball.