How to Avoid Relapse


Relapse is when you go back to doing the drug or alcohol, that you worked so hard to overcome.  It does happen to some and not to others. However, there are ways to avoid relapse!  This issue will go over the stages of relapse, how to avoid, and how to change some habits that can trigger a relapse.

Stages of Relapse

A relapse can start weeks or even months before the initial physical relapse can occur.  There are three stages of relapse:

  • Emotional: The person may not be thinking about using again, but their emotions and behaviors could be setting them up to relapse.  Signs of emotional relapse is; anxiety, intolerance, anger, defensiveness, mood swings, isolation, not attending meetings, and poor eating and sleeping.  These are also symptoms of post-acute withdrawal.  People who are able to identify these withdrawal, it is easier to avoid relapse.
  • Mental: A mental relapse can be described as a war.  One side wants the thing that the person is addicted to, but the other does not! In the early stage, they may just thinking causally about it, but in the later stage they cannot stop thinking about using.  Signs include; thinking of everything about the past when using and even glamorizing it, lying, being around the people who they used with, fantasizing, thinking about using, planning out a full detail plan to use.
  • Physical: Once the person starts thinking about relapsing, it does not take long for them to actually relapse.  A physical relapse can be triggered by; arguments or conflict with others, isolation from family and friends, negative emotions, physical discomfort (pain), and strong urges to use.

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Early Relapse Prevention

If you can identify early relapse signs, like those of emotion relapse, there is time to identify that you may be relapsing!  If you identify your isolation, anxiety, and sleeping and eating habits are all changing, then ask for help, practice relaxing, and get back on routine!  Learn and practice self-care and and understand what triggers you off to use and how to overcome them.

Changing your behavior in a positive aspect can benefit you in not being drained while in the emotional relapse stage.  If you do not chances are you could move into then mental relapse stage and making it easier to have physical relapse!

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Learn how to Manage Triggers

If you learn how to manage your triggers, you will be able to resist in a physical relapse.

  • Identifying personal triggers: No two people are the same, so every trigger will be different.  Common triggers are walking by bar, seeing someone drunk or high, getting a paycheck, stressed at work, arguing with people, and just being bored.
  • Know what you are working with: Triggers and craving are a part of recovery.  Know your triggers and have a plan for when you feel yourself being triggered.
  • Practice trigger plan: Role play, even in front of the mirror, what you will do when you feel a trigger to use.  This can really help you take control of the situation when an urge is coming on.
  • H.A.L.T.: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, are four things that are said to cause more relapses.  If you are eating and sleeping well, exercising and remaining aware of your emotions, you are able to handle triggers better.
  • Do not test yourself: If you know what your triggers, then try to avoid them. If you are an alcoholic, do not walk by a bar.

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Learn to Relax

What is a reason why people use alcohol and drugs?  To relax, escape or relieve tension.

Think about the all the time to get your addiction choice, use, deal with consequences and plan the next relapse, you will then realize that relaxing for twenty to forty minutes is a lot cheaper and worth not relapsing.  Do something everyday to relax or go out and reward yourself. Relaxation will reduce the chances of using again.

There are many ways to relax:

  • Walking
  • Meditate
  • Yoga
  • Riding a bike or roller skating
  • Drawing or painting
  • Laying in hammock

avoid relapse

If you feel that you are about to relapse please contact Bridgeway Behavioral Health at or call 866-758-1152.

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