Relapse happens but if you have good tools, it can be prevented

I heard the best advice in a meeting recently and I want to share it. The woman said, “The addict in my head speaks to me in my own voice. So, when I hear it, I always have to remind myself, that’s not me.”

Wo. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve never heard that. Even today, after years of recovery, my addict voice still speaks to me regularly: Don’t go to the meeting, eat the cookie, buy a vape, and on and on and on. But, as of last week, I stop when I hear her and remind myself, “That’s not you. You don’t want to hurt yourself today.” Thinking like that is so helpful for staying on track. I recommend!

By the way, I was a relapser. So, when I write about relapse it’s not coming from a judgemental place, but from an informed place where I hope to share some experience, strength, and hope. Relapse is a normal part of recovery for many people, but since the drug landscape has changed so dramatically, and relapse can easily lead to a Fentynal overdose, it’s time to have solid relapse prevention tools.

Preventing relapse should be thought of as a formula

Relapse prevention starts with knowing your triggers. They say some of the biggest relapse triggers include, boredom, stress, financial stress, family, work stress, and relationship issues. Who doesn’t have some of that, if not all of that? Life can cause all of that so here are the things to think about as we learn relapse prevention.

1. Check your mood every day

Relapse prevention also means staying in touch with your emotions. You can have the habit of feeling bad, which means you need to turn that around. If you wake up upset, acknowledge what has upset you and consider ways to restart your day. I need a daily reality check to see if I’m steaming over anything stupid. If something upsets you during the day, pause and journal or call someone to process what happened. Don’t hold it inside or let obsessive thinking create a story. I stopped relapsing when I realized my feelings wouldn’t kill me. Always find the time or someone who can help straighten out your thinking if you’re losing control. Journaling helps to keep you in touch with yourself.

2. Make a sober buddy, enlist someone to help

As I say over and over, You can’t do this alone. Often I get a huge dose of relief by simply calling one of my sober buddies and having a chat. They make me laugh, they help me see my own craziness, and best of all they help make me feel less alone. So many relapses come from feeling alone and having that desperate feeling. Get in the habit of calling a friend, sponsor, mentor, relative, sober sister or brother, or anyone who can help fill that pause with positive reinforcement and remind you that you are loved and your recovery matters. This one comes from my book, 100 Tips For Growing Up, so believe me when I say it’s important.

3. Relapse prevention may mean finding a new recovery support group

Connection, connection, connection! I get it, not everyone subscribes to 12-step and that’s cool. But, everyone needs to connect with like-minded individuals when seeking a new lifestyle. I’m a 12-stepper, myself. That means AA, NA, Al-Anon CODA, and other 12 Step programs, but I know it doesn’t work for everyone. There are other options. SMART Recovery, Embrace Recovery, Religion, Sports, and recovery coaches, are all fantastic alternatives. The point is, it helps to have a support network and a recovery program that is allowing you develop your recovery and all other aspects of your life for that matter. You can’t do it without connections to other people experiencing what you are experiencing, who can keep you centered.

4. Make a relapse plan in case you slip

If you are someone who relapses, it may make sense to make a plan for when it happens. I don’t know what that looks like for you, but whether it includes having Narcon around, having an addiction professional’s cell phone handy, or someone you can call the minute you’re ready to come back. It’s not insane to plan for the worst. In that same spirit, maybe write yourself a letter for that exact moment reminding yourself why it’s a bad idea and leave it in your car, or wherever it should be to find at the right time. If there is someone safe to call in that moment, put their number right by the dealers. Take actions to interrupt the pattern and just prepare for whatever happens.

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Lindsey Glass

Lindsey Glass is the co-founder of Reach Out Recovery. Her 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World Of Recovery, has helped to lift the stigma from addiction and recovery and is used in recovery programs nationwide to show what life is like on the other side of addiction. Lindsey's teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, was distributed to PBS stations nationwide by American Public Television in 2014-15. Lindsey has written dozens of popular articles on recovery. She is a recovery advocate and frequent keynote speaker. Lindsey is the author of 100 Tips for Growing Up, My 20 Years of Recovery, 2019. Before focusing on recovery, Lindsey was a TV and screenwriter. She has worked in publishing, web development, and marketing.

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