The possibility of relapse is a serious concern for any recovering addict. No matter what treatment program you attend or how far along you are in your recovery, the danger of relapse hovers. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates for addiction are between 40 and 60 percent. Addiction cannot be cured; in most cases, it can only be managed.
As a recovering addict, you must remain constantly vigilant against the appearance of relapse triggers in your life. Here are some common mistakes recovering addicts make that lead straight to relapse.
Not Applying Yourself in Treatment
The first mistake that leads to addiction relapse is one you make while you’re still going through your inpatient addiction program. If you don’t put your heart and soul into doing the work recommended for you in the program, you won’t reap the benefits of treatment, and you’ll be more likely to return to substance abuse after your program ends.
Addiction treatment programs rely on proven psychotherapies and can help you get to the bottom of your substance abuse issues and change your behaviors for good. You need to put your best foot forward and really work hard in your treatment program. Be honest with your therapists, participate willingly in therapy to the best of your ability and make the most of your time in treatment, or you will find yourself leaving rehab without the tools you need to build a substance-free life.
Hanging Out with the Wrong Crowd After Treatment
When you leave your addiction treatment program, you might be tempted to return to your old friends and hangouts. Addiction treatment programs unanimously discourage recovering addicts from hanging out with their drinking and drugging friends or returning to their old partying stomping grounds. They have a saying in recovery: “If you hang around the barber shop long enough you’re going to get a haircut.” If you hang around with your drinking and drugging friends after rehab, you’ll inevitably start drinking and drugging again, too.
Not Using Healthy Coping Skills
Addicts have learned to cope with painful emotions and difficult situations in one way — by abusing drugs and alcohol. When you enter treatment, you’ll learn about healthy coping skills, ways to deal with stress, frustration, anger, pain and disappointment, without abusing alcohol and drugs.
The trouble with healthy coping mechanisms is they can seem annoying when you’re accustomed to taking the edge off with drugs and alcohol. In order to manage your stress, for example, you need to make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, exercise often and make time for the things you enjoy. Learning new coping skills also involves taking time — sometimes a lot of time — to learn about yourself and what makes you happy.
Add to that the fact that early recovery is often a time fraught with emotional turmoil, and you have a recipe for relapse. When you stop using the healthy coping skills you learned in your treatment program, it’s only a matter of time before you decide sobriety isn’t worth it anymore and return to active addiction.
Not Having Goals
Goals give meaning to our lives — they give us something to strive for. As a recovering addict, you’re going to have a lot of time and energy on your hands now that you’re no longer preoccupied with finding and using drugs and alcohol. Professional and personal goals keep you from feeling aimless and give you reasons to stay committed to your sobriety.
Boredom is the enemy of sobriety. If you want to relapse into active addiction, let yourself drift about with no direction or goals.
Failing to Connect with Others
Now that you’re in recovery, you’re no longer talking to your old friends from your partying days. Many of your loved ones may have also stopped speaking to you, and there’s a good chance they’ll stay away at least until your sobriety is more established. Loneliness and isolation can lead to depression and make you look back fondly on the old days when you were using — because at least then, you had friends.
If you want to relapse, don’t reach out to the people around you. Don’t build friendships among the people in your treatment program or your recovery support groups. Don’t take classes or explore new interests. Definitely don’t make any efforts to reconnect with friends and loved ones who may have distanced themselves during your active addiction.
The threat of addiction relapse can linger no matter how many years it’s been since you got sober. If you get lazy about safeguarding your recovery, you could end up paying for it.