Author: Carolyn Rennie, Foothills Centre for Change

Relapse occurs when an addict or alcoholic who has lost the desire to use or drink picks up that drug or drink again.  Relapse does not have to be a part of your recovery. There are many signs & symptoms that you can look for and things you can do on a daily basis to help avoid a relapse.

It’s important to look out for changes in your mood and behaviour which can be the beginning stages of relapse. Being diligent and self aware are the best defences against relapse. Some symptoms leading to relapse can include: exhaustion, dishonesty, impatience, argumentativeness, depression, frustration, self-pity, cockiness, complacency, expecting too much from others, skipping the basics, using other chemicals, wanting too much (expecting recovery overnight), forgetting gratitude, and omnipotence (thinking you are all powerful and have all the answers).

When those symptoms crop up it’s time to do some work. It’s important to share any triggers or thoughts of using with a sponsor or other support. Rat yourself out! An addicts’ natural state is to use so there is no need to feel ashamed when thoughts of using seep into your mind. The question is will you act out on the thoughts or push harder into your recovery.

Here are some things you can do to help avoid a relapse: figure out who supports you and use their support; identify high risk situations and plan how to handle or avoid them; identify triggers (thoughts, feelings, behaviours) and share them; plan your days; don’t act impulsively; keep your life balanced (physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual); be aware that your changes may be threatening to others; be realistic – recovery is difficult; get involved in a self help program; don’t keep secrets; regularly monitor your situation; increase/develop your life skills; and deal with issues.

As mentioned above there can be high risk situations such as being around family, Christmas, New Year’s, Weddings, Funerals, Holidays or even Super Bowl, concerts or other sporting events that can be triggers. It’s important to make sure that you are discussing these situations with your support ahead of time. When in doubt, don’t go!

There are twelve things you can do on a daily basis to help keep focused on a program of recovery.

  1. Practice Total Abstinence
  2. In the Morning Ask for Help
  3. Go to Meetings
  4. Read 12-Step Material
  5. Learn & “LIVE” the steps
  6. Physical Exercise
  7. Proper Diet
  8. Help Others – Avoid Criticism & Condemning
  9. “Use” the Serenity Prayer
  10. Practice Tolerance
  11. Take your Own Inventory
  12. Give “Thanks” at Night

Although avoiding relapse is ideal, it can happen, and it is nothing to be ashamed about. It takes a lot of courage to come back, and you will always be welcome back with open arms.

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