A drug or alcohol addiction can be very difficult to beat alone but it can be successfully treated.
Our understanding of addiction and the way it affects both brain and body has come on in leaps and bounds over recent years and the sort of evidence-based treatments delivered at addiction centres or through outpatient treatment programmes can be very effective.
We don’t, however, have a miracle ‘cure’ available. Many recovering addicts continue to struggle with the risk of relapse after undergoing addiction treatment and some people describe their struggle with drug and alcohol abuse as a lifelong one.
Treatment allows you to counteract and cope with some of the effects addiction has on your brain and regain control of your life and behaviour. For many, though, the chronic nature of drug addiction means that relapse remains a danger even after addiction treatment.
Avoiding triggering a Relapse
There are a number of ways you can reduce the risks and improve your chances to avoid relapsing after addiction treatment. While you will have learned about relapse prevention coping strategies during your treatment, it is still best to try to avoid relapse triggers in the first place.
This can be easier said than done and triggers can vary between individuals but in general terms, it may mean avoiding situations associated with your former drinking or drug use. This may mean avoiding pubs and bars and certain people, especially if they are not supportive of you trying to remain clean and sober.
You can’t reasonably expect everyone you know to give up drinking (or even using drugs) but you can and should avoid people who encourage you to return to bad habits or insist that ‘just one won’t hurt’.
One study found that even viewing images associated with drug use was enough to stimulate emotional centres of the brain associated with drug-seeking behaviour and people in recovery can remain very vulnerable to stimuli associated with their habits.
Behavioural addictions such as gambling addiction can also leave a recovering addict vulnerable to relapse and again, you should try to avoid triggering situations, whether that is going into bookies or casino or hanging out with friends who like to bet during a sporting event.
It can also be useful to prevent boredom and take up positive new activities. During the course of an addiction, drinking or drug use may become your biggest concern and following rehabilitation you might not know what to do with yourself. Taking up a new hobby, taking a class, participating in sports or volunteering can help keep you occupied, channel your energy in a positive direction and help to extend your social circle.
Develop a positive support network around you
Speaking of your social circle, it is important to surround yourself with people who will be part of a positive support system, if at all possible. This may include friends and family members but could also involve support groups of various kinds.
Group therapy is likely to have played a key role in your addiction treatment programme and, while everyone’s recovery journey is different, it can be very valuable to open up to people who at least have an idea of what you are going through. Studies suggest that peer support groups can be very beneficial, both during the treatment stage and afterwards when relapse can continue to be such a risk.
Remember your Relapse Prevention Techniques
Addiction treatment programmes can have a number of different elements. Detoxification is an important step as this is the process of flushing the drugs and alcohol already present out of your system – essentially the point at which you get clean and sober. This can be accompanied by severe withdrawal symptoms, so it is always advisable to undergo detox in a supervised setting.
Just as important, though, is the programme of therapies designed to help you explore the root causes underlying your addiction and associated behaviours. Our therapies at Cassiobury Court include group therapy, individual therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), art therapy and self-help.
During the course of your treatment, you will have gained knowledge, tools and techniques that can help you to avoid relapsing moving forward. It is important to keep in mind everything you learned during your treatment, from the admissions process to your very last day, and to put into practice any techniques and coping strategies. There will still be challenges ahead but your addiction treatment will at least have given you a solid grounding on which to build.
It also helps if you deal with any mental health issues at the same time as your addiction. The two are often intertwined in complex ways and leaving a mental health condition untreated could contribute to a relapse further down the line. The process of treating mental health issues and addictions that co-exist at the same time is often known as dual diagnosis treatment.
Participate fully in your Aftercare Plan
Precisely because we know that the recovery journey doesn’t end the moment you leave the door, we offer a free 12-month aftercare package with all our treatment programmes. You may need support beyond that but the first year presents the greatest risk for many people.
We will put together an aftercare team that can provide you with the support and encouragement you need right when you need it. This will typically consist of medical staff from Cassiobury Court, volunteers who may be former clients and recovering addicts themselves, and peers from your time in rehab.
Some people also like to involve family and loved ones in their aftercare programme, but that is up to the individual.
Don’t give up
Finally, if you do experience a relapse, don’t automatically assume that is the end of your recovery and slide back into chronic or heavy drinking and drug use.
A relapse can be very discouraging and it’s obviously best to avoid them if possible, but you can still come back from a relapse with the right support and continue with your long-term recovery.