If you are in recovery from addiction and enrolled in a transitional housing program, you’re most likely fully aware that every day can be a challenge. Although your days in detox and rehab are over and you’re not actively abusing drugs and alcohol anymore, day-to-day life can still be filled with triggers, stressful occurrences, and cravings.
It’s important to know that you’re not alone in this struggle and many other people enrolled in your sober living program may also be facing similar challenges each day. To keep your recovery top of mind, here are eight drug relapse prevention tips. Keep this in mind each day as you gradually transition into an independent life of sobriety and use them to address any warning signs of relapse.
8 Addiction Relapse Prevention Tips
- Know the signs of emotional and mental relapse.
Before you can implement any relapse prevention tips, you need to have a thorough understanding of what relapse is. Being able to recognize the signs of relapse will enable you to ask for help quickly when it’s needed most. Common signs of emotional relapse often include mood swings, isolating oneself, being angry or defensive, and poor eating and sleeping habits. Signs of mental relapse include fantasizing or thinking about using drugs or alcohol, glamorizing past use, lying about your feelings or behaviors, and hanging out with old drug-abusing friends.1
- Be aware of how you’re feeling, emotionally and physically.
Feeling anxious, depressed, or angry is a normal part of life, but strong emotions like these can sometimes be detrimental to an addict in recovery. If you’re newly sober, it’s very important to be aware of your emotions and find healthy ways to cope with them, such as going for a walk with your dog, spending time with your sober living roommates, or talking to your counselor. Although you’ll have good days and bad days, maintaining a sense of self-awareness can help you tackle personal problems and issues before they morph into a full relapse.
- Fill your free time.
Although boredom is actually a part of every addict’s journey to full recovery, it can be a serious threat to a person’s sobriety.2 Feeling bored and empty can make it very easy to relapse so it’s important to fill your free time each and every day. Although there’s nothing wrong with resting, hours of free time can be filled with healthy and productive activities like exercising, volunteering or experimenting with a new hobby like painting.
- Resist the urge to skip support group meetings.
Some days it may be extremely tempting to skip your support group meetings, but one skipped meeting can easily lead to two, and before you know it, you might be completely disconnected from your recovery support group. Maybe you feel particularly discouraged or unmotivated. Or maybe you just don’t feel like sharing. Whatever the reason, push past it and go to your meeting anyway. Confiding in your sponsor or asking one of your sober living roommates to go to the meeting with you might help you resist the temptation to skip and help you stay accountable, even on a day when you’re struggling.
- Carry your emergency contact list with you wherever you go.
A big part of relapse prevention in addiction recovery is just being prepared. If you don’t already have one, you should create a list of people in your life who you can reach out to if you feel particularly discouraged or you ever feel tempted to use drugs and alcohol. This list might include your sponsor, your sober living roommate(s), and your counselor, among others. Take that list with you wherever you go. Keep it in your purse or your wallet and make sure it’s easily accessible so you can get to it when you need it most.
- Always have a backup plan.
You may have completed rehab, be enrolled in sober living, and feel great about your recovery, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Addiction recovery is something that requires consistent work and daily effort, and it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of over-confidence. Whether you’re attending a family function or you’re headed to an event for work, you should always have a backup plan and discuss it with your sponsor before heading out for the day or evening.
- Take care of yourself first.
Of all the relapse prevention tips and strategies out there, this is one of the most important. Although it may feel selfish to focus so much time and energy on yourself and your own personal health and wellness, it’s important to take care of yourself whether you’re recovering from addiction or not. Additionally, you can’t take care of the people you love if you’re not caring for yourself, so your spouse, children, and loved ones are all benefiting from the time and effort you’re putting into bettering yourself.
- Invest your time in building healthy relationships instead of lingering on old, unhealthy ones.
In drug rehab, you probably spent some time making amends with friends, family members, and other relationships that were damaged due to your drug and alcohol abuse. For many people, the amends-making process continues on into a sober living program and even well into independent sober living. Unfortunately, some relationships cannot be mended and others should not continue to go on for the sake of your sobriety. It may be tempting to go hang out with old drug-using friends, especially when you’re feeling discouraged and tempted to use, but it’s much more healthy and beneficial for your sobriety to confide in those who do support your sobriety.
Holiday Relapse Prevention Tips
The holidays can be an especially stressful time for many people, but individuals in recovery face different challenges that can often put their sobriety at risk. If this is your first holiday season sober or you tend to struggle to stay sober during the holidays, here are a few holiday relapse prevention tips that may help you.
1. Treat it like any other day.
It’s easy to get sucked into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season but sometimes avoiding all that can be the best way to get through your first holiday season sober. If you’re struggling to stay sober, try treating Christmas and New Year’s Eve like they are any other day. Go about your normal routine, attend a meeting, prepare your typical meals, and enjoy living life without being bound to an addictive substance.
2. Manage expectations.
Having unrealistic expectations about the holiday season can cause a great deal of stress, which can increase your risk of relapsing. Instead of expecting everything to be perfect, know that the holiday season will likely have some hiccups. Things may not go exactly as you planned, you may be hit with some severe cravings, and you may not even feel happy or joyful at all. Although it would be nice, a picture-perfect holiday is unlikely to happen, but realistic expectations make it easier to roll with the punches.
3. Stay in close contact with your sponsor.
The holidays can be hard, especially if you’re newly sober, but staying in touch with your sponsor through it all can help make things easier by keeping you accountable to your sobriety goals. You may not feel like keeping in touch, but doing so is a great way to talk through cravings and triggers early before they become problematic. It’s also helpful to have someone in your corner who understands the struggle, has been there before, and is available to encourage you, support you, and listen whenever you need it. A sponsor may also be able to talk through specific circumstances you will face during the holiday season, such as holiday parties, and help you plan your escape if necessary.
4. Plan carefully.
If you plan to attend any holiday parties or social events during the holiday season, you may want to plan carefully to avoid unnecessary problems that could make staying sober more difficult for you. For example, you may want to drive yourself to these events so you always have a way to leave whenever necessary, call your sponsor before and after the event to check in, take a sober friend with you, know exactly what time you will arrive and leave (and stick to it!), and bring your own non-alcoholic drinks or have a go-to non-alcoholic drink you will order when you get there. Small hacks like these can make a big difference!
5. Turn down invitations if necessary.
It’s so easy to over-commit, especially during the holiday season, but attending every single event you’re invited to can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. You don’t have to go to an event just because you were invited. If you feel like your plate is already full, that’s okay! Practice saying “no” before you even receive the invitation and have some responses ready to make the process easier. For example, you could say, “Thank you for inviting me. It sounds great, but I won’t be able to make it this time.” or “I’m focusing on other things right now so it’s not a good idea for me at this moment.”
6. Practice healthy stress management.
The stress of shopping, cooking, hosting, and seeing relatives can make living sober more difficult, although not impossible. Additional triggers like certain people, locations, strong emotions, and even advertisements can cause some stress. During this time of year, it’s important to practice healthy stress management with strategies like exercising regularly, eating a diet full of healthy, nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, meditating, attending support group meetings, keeping a gratitude journal, and taking time for yourself when you need it.
7. Ask for help when you need it.
During the holiday season, there may come a time when you need urgent help to avoid a relapse or to get back on track. Know how you will ask for help and who you will contact to get ahead of the game. It’s a good idea to keep a list of trustworthy sober friends that you can call when you need to talk or if you need extra support. If you feel like you need to go back to treatment during the holiday season, don’t hesitate to reach out to your sponsor or a former treatment team for help. Going to detox or rehab during the holidays may not be your initial plan, but if it becomes necessary, another round of treatment can provide essential support and tools that will help you stay sober.
Why are Relapse Prevention Tips and Strategies Important?
Relapse is a very real risk for sober living residents so implementing relapse prevention tips and strategies is a great way to maintain your sobriety. For most people, maintaining long-term sobriety is also most successful with the help of a support system and ongoing recovery services.
Eudaimonia Recovery Homes provides safe and comfortable sober living homes for men and women in all stages of addiction recovery. Contact Eudaimonia today if you’re struggling to maintain your sobriety after rehab.