In many cases, those in recovery will relapse at some point. Thus, the incorporation of relapse prevention programs into a treatment regimen is essential. The common occurrence of relapse has even been acknowledged by professionals as part of recovery, hence why it’s important to know what to do if relapse occurs and how to prevent it. Individuals in the early stages of recovery are often faced with the potential for relapse but should do everything they can to avoid it.
At Lakehouse Recovery Center, we emphasize within our program the importance of relapse prevention. With various treatment programs, competent counselors, case managers, and psychoeducation on addiction, our case managers will work with patients extensively on the topic. Part of that teaching includes understanding what can cause relapse, the importance of a support system, sober community, and various relapse prevention tips.
Relapsing in the Early Stages of Recovery
It’s important to keep in mind that addiction and related disorders are chronic and are lapsing and relapsing disorders. If you’re struggling with substance or any dependency on an addictive agent or addictive behavior, it can be quite daunting to accept the fact that the illness has no immediate cure. Recovery is an ongoing, long-term treatment process. Relapse rates for substance use disorder (SUD) are somewhere between 40-60%. While this number might seem high, relapse for SUD is low compared to the rates of other diseases. Relapse prevention focuses on reducing the likelihood of relapse and the severity of relapse. Some factors that can lead to relapse include:
- Weak support systems
- Co-occurring and untreated mental illness
- Lack of healthy coping skills
- Abusing various substances
A relapse can be thought of as a process of events as opposed to one singular event. For example, an initial slip up, or “initial transgression of problem behavior after a quit attempt,” is referred to as a “lapse.” According to an article on relapse prevention in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, a “prolapse” is described as a patient who manages to abstain after a lapse and then continues on a positive progression. Multiple continued lapses are considered a relapse.
The Goals of Relapse Prevention
Relapse prevention is described as a cognitive-behavioral approach that aims to identify high-risk triggers or situations for relapse, address them, and provide support so that a patient can maintain the behavioral goals they’ve worked so hard to achieve. The two specific goals of relapse prevention include:
- Preventing initial lapses, maintaining abstinence, and creating harm reduction goals.
- Providing support for lapse management if a lapse has occurred in order to avoid future lapses or relapse.
An individual needs to identify what specifically triggers them and better understand what a high-risk situation is.
Understanding Triggers and High-Risk Situations
A high-risk situation is a “circumstance in which an individual’s attempt to refrain from a particular behavior is threatened.” What makes high-risk situations so severe is that they usually arise without warning. Throughout a relapse prevention program, patients are asked to identify low-risk situations and analyze how they differ from high-risk situations. By understanding these situations, individuals can better understand what triggers them.
From analyzing triggers, temptations, and low- and high-risk situations, a patient can, through the support of their case manager, sober community, and relapse prevention program, learn the best way to respond to lapsed behaviors. The previously mentioned article referenced Seemingly Irrelevant Decision (SIDs), which are “behaviors that are early in the path of decisions that place the client in a high-risk situation.” Some examples of SIDs include:
- Keeping addictive agents in your home
- Maintaining relationships with individuals still active overusing substances or actively taking part in addictive behaviors
- Social situations where addictive agents may be present
- Recreational substance use on what people rationalize to themselves as “special occasions”
Additionally, it’s so important to have the support of a sober community. What that community looks like may differ from person to person. For some, it may include regularly attending 12-step meetings, family support, or even a spiritual community, depending on what works best for you.
Relapse Prevention Tips
Some tips that can help prevent relapse, which we provide at the Lakehouse Recovery Center website, include:
- Talking about your feelings and thoughts with a trusted, nonjudgmental confidant
- Recalling and reconnecting with why you decided to choose sobriety in the first place
- Focusing on identifying the struggles threatening your sobriety to determine how to ask for help
- Thinking of the life improvements that would come with sobriety
- Having a list tailored to your triggers of resources that can help you prevent relapse
Relapse occurs in about 40-60% of individuals in recovery from substance use or dependency on other addictive agents or behaviors. It has become so common that it’s often thought of as a part of the recovery process. It seems important to emphasize this so that you realize that you are not alone in relapsing. Our relapse prevention program will focus on your goals for achieving and maintaining sobriety. Working with our case managers, you will be able to determine different high-risk situations, triggers, and temptations that could threaten your recovery. If you or someone you know is experiencing a lapse or relapse, the most important thing to do is contact a mental health provider. Returning to a destructive lifestyle can occur quickly when someone starts using again. Please reach out to us at (877) 762-3707 to learn more about our treatment offerings and relapse prevention program. Let us support you in continuing your recovery journey today.