Many addicts and their families want to know: What happens after treatment, once you have committed to making your recovery process work? Significant lifestyle changes are usually not easy to maintain. Sticking to a new program with an eye toward relapse prevention requires support, clarity and commitment, among other things. Change requires commitment, and sometimes, particularly on a hard day or when in a situation in which the addictive behavior might have taken place in the past (e.g., a party with old friends), addicts will question themselves and their motives for recovery. This can lead to all sorts of decisions or actions that are not positive or recovery-friendly.
At these times, sometimes, lapsing or relapsing could very well take place. Both lapses (one-time returns to the addictive behavior) and relapses (a return to the addictive lifestyle) do, unfortunately, occur. Often, a relapse is more of a process than a single event.
The chance of such occurrences requires an understanding of why relapses happen and a “toolbox” of relapse prevention techniques that might include:
- Remembering how destructive the old behavior was and how it made the addict, ultimately, feel worse, not better.
- Finding supportive, positive people who can listen, distract and/or help an addict relax.
- Asking for help when needed, and remembering that no one is alone.
- Recognizing and avoiding triggers that in the past would be accompanied by the addictive behavior (such as that party with old friends).
- Expecting and being prepared for roadblocks, persistent cravings, an inner voice that questions our recovery process and other ways in which others and even our own selves can derail the recovery process.
- Creating new ways to self-reward that are healthy and positive.
It is important to understand and remember that lapses and relapses are part of each and every person’s natural resistance to change. Remember: The bigger the change, the stronger resistance.
Arming oneself prior to any of the triggers or signs of relapse and having a good relapse prevention plan in place take work on the addict’s part. It is also important to remember that the better an addict reacts to and copes with the cravings, the more likely it is that the cravings will eventually begin to fade and hold less power over the addict.
Preventing relapse requires a new approach that does work…especially when the old one of addiction didn’t serve or work well in the first place.