Tips to Prevent Drug or Alcohol Relapse

A relapse occurs when a person goes from the recovery stage of their substance use disorder back into active drug and/or alcohol use.1 Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent a relapse from occurring.

This page will cover what contributes to relapse, how to avoid triggers, and ways to prevent drug and alcohol relapse.

What Causes Relapses?

Addiction is characterized as a chronic and relapsing disorder that includes continued substance use despite harmful consequences.2 Due to the chronic nature of addiction, even though a person may no longer be engaging in active substance use, the disease still remains and is something that needs to be continuously managed. If not, there is a higher likelihood of a person experiencing one or more relapses.

So, what causes relapse? Studies show that there are several risk factors that can negatively affect one’s stability in recovery and potentially lead to a physical relapse.3 These risk factors can include the following:3

  • Negative emotional states, including anxiety, anger, boredom, and depression
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Societal pressures, particularly pressure to drink or use drugs
  • Situations that test one’s self-control, such as celebrations where use is occurring, passing a place where substance misuse used to occur, and seeing advertisements for alcohol/drugs

Having the appropriate coping skills can help mitigate the temptation that comes with any one of these experiences, however that does not mean that it is not possible to still experience a relapse.3 It is important to be aware of the many different ways that you can prevent relapse from occurring so that you can remain in recovery for as long as possible.

How to Prevent a Drug or Alcohol Relapse

Understanding ways to prevent drug or alcohol relapse is fundamental staple of recovery, especially given the many risks associated with relapse. For example, the greatest risk of relapse is overdose, as this can result in death.4 When a person stops using substances for a period of time, their tolerance for substances decreases substantially.4 Returning to use (especially if use restarts with the same amount that was previously being used when tolerance was greater) after a period of abstinence can put a person at risk for accidental overdose and death.4

Thankfully, there are many ways that you can be proactive in your addiction recovery to prevent a relapse (and its associated risks) from occurring.

Avoiding Triggers During Addiction Recovery

Triggers are people, places, situations, and things that can increase your risk of relapse. Anyone can be triggered by something, including those who are in recovery from a substance use disorder. Learning how to avoid triggers is important in preventing relapse.

Strategies to help you minimize and avoid potential relapse triggers include:4

  • Removing drug and alcohol-related paraphernalia.
  • Avoiding attending events or situations where substances will be used or have been used before.
  • Avoiding people who actively use substances.
  • Eliminating contact information of people you have previously used with.
  • Reaching out for help if a craving occurs.
  • Practicing regular physical, psychological, and social self-care. 

Additionally, if you are not feeling stable in your recovery and are concerned you may relapse, it is worth considering attending an outpatient program. In this type of program, you can still continue to go to work or school and uphold your household responsibilities, but also obtain continued care throughout the week. American Addiction Centers, our parent company, offers outpatient treatment at many of our facilities throughout the county.

Build a Support Network to Avoid Relapse

A solid support system is crucial in helping you maintain sobriety. Your motivation for recovery can be significantly influenced by the type of social support you have. Therefore, it can be positively influenced and negatively influenced by the people in your life.1

Your social support network can impact your ability to sustain recovery, which is why it is so important to surround yourself with support that is conducive to your recovery. Some strategies to help you build a healthy support system include:1

  • Involving yourself in activities that don’t include substance use.
  • Engaging in support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
  • Making amends and reestablishing connections with supportive friends and family members from your past.
  • Joining addiction-focused peer support specialists.

Participate in Aftercare Programs

Aftercare rehab programs, such as 12-Step recovery groups (AA/NA) and non-12-Step recovery programs, can be an important part of your relapse prevention plan. Participation in such groups usually involves having a sponsor in recovery, attending meetings consistently and reading materials, all with the overarching goal of abstinence.5

The benefits of participation in aftercare programs are vast and can include:

  • Developing rapport with others who share abstinence and recovery goals, which reduces feelings of loneliness.
  • Connecting with others who have shared experiences.
  • Gaining a deeper understanding of addiction and the consequences of the disease.
  • Developing an understanding of what coping skills have worked for others as well as how other people have overcome addiction and found success in recovery.
  • Having a safe environment with your peers where you feel accepted and not judged.

Furthermore, guilt and shame are common emotions experienced by people who have experienced addiction.5 The negative consequences of addiction aren’t limited to just the person struggling with substance misuse. It impacts loved ones and society as a whole. Guilt and shame often accompany early recovery, and self-help groups help people overcome these feelings, believe that recovery is within their reach, and recognize that they are not alone in their emotions.5

Develop Hobbies to Prevent Relapse

Negative emotions, such as anger or loneliness, are common causes of relapse.4 To prevent addiction relapse, it is essential to redefine what fun is and identify activities that are enriching and satisfying and don’t involve the use of drugs or alcohol.5 These can include self-care activities that support a healthy mind, body, and spirit, as well as social activities that strengthen a healthy support system.

Examples of hobbies that support abstinence include:4

  • Journaling.
  • Physical exercise, such as going for walks or runs.
  • Engaging in conversations with loved ones.
  • Spending quality time with pets, friends, and loved ones.
  • Yoga.
  • Meditations.
  • Massage.
  • Spiritual or religious activities.

Aftercare Programs at Sunrise House for Relapse Prevention

Sunrise House, an inpatient rehab in New Jersey, offers many levels of addiction treatment as well as aftercare services, such as the opening of a new sober living in Franklin, NJ. Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab treatment is a great stepdown option from inpatient rehab and offered at another AAC facility located in Hollywood, Florida. Sunrise House also offers resources for loved ones who are wondering how to help a family member with addiction. We understand the negative impact addiction has on your life or the life of your loved one and how overwhelming it can feel when the decision is made to get help.

Sunrise House has trained and compassionate admissions navigators available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our admissions navigators can help you start the admissions process, verify your insurance coverage for rehab, help identify ways to pay for rehab and provide information on our aftercare services. By calling , you can speak to an admissions navigator immediately and take the steps in beginning your addiction recovery process.

Complete our today to have your insurance verified.

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