Lifestyle

4 Coping Mechanisms for Addiction Triggers and Relapse Episodes

You just recently celebrated six months of sobriety and are feeling very positive. You’re pumped and even more determined to keep the momentum until you get an invite to a party. This instantly triggers the memory of the pleasure you derive from drinking and the high the drugs give. You start to crave one more outing, and before you know it, you’re neck-deep in your old habits.

It’s not unusual for people who struggle with addiction to relapse at least once during recovery. Some might have a brief slip and then have a full relapse several times before getting sober for the last time. In fact, it is considered one of the recovery processes in different treatment models. Addiction relapse takes a while to correct because chronic substance use alters the structure and function of the brain.

Studies show that relapse rates reach 50 percent in the first three months of an intensive inpatient program. Addiction relapse occurs in three stages—emotional, mental, and physical. Emotional relapse is when a person remembers the previous experiences without the intention of returning. This incidence sets the marker, places them at a higher risk, and leads to isolation.

Mental relapse is a psychological struggle between staying clean and using again, characterized by intense substance craving. Physical relapse occurs when the urge gets better and you give in. Rather than feeling demoralized after a relapse, understand it starts from a high-risk exposure to poor coping measures. Here’s how to cope better with triggers and relapse episodes. Here are four coping mechanisms for addiction triggers and relapse episodes.

  • Mindfulness and Meditation

A huge part of a relapse occurs mentally before the physical manifestation. Mindfulness meditation techniques can help you work through difficult thoughts and emotions. An emotional relapse starts by casting your mind back on past experiences. Mindfulness techniques help you focus on the present and to accept the past without judgment or negativity.

Mindfulness techniques like yoga, journaling, and breathing exercises help you observe your internal experiences and proceed only with those that are helpful. Meditation helps improve self-awareness and regulate mood, and it also makes it easier to handle substance cravings by reducing anxiety and stress.

  • Build a Sober Support Network

The journey to sobriety is never easy and knowing you’re not walking this rope alone is important. The worst place to be when working on addiction recovery is to be alone. A support group offers you a space to learn first-hand how people cope with their relapses. These support networks offer a non-judgemental place to share your experience.

Better still, you could visit a rehabilitation center. A rehab center offers evidence-based treatment using cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, and medication-assisted treatments. For instance, the Massachusetts alcohol and substance abuse center has licensed medical experts that will tailor your treatment plan based on your history. You also get to build a sober network of reliable, trustworthy peers you can call whenever needed.

  • Stay Positive

Relapse can be overwhelming and depressing. This is why many experts advocate for an optimistic outlook on life. Research shows that positive thinking strongly affects physical and mental health. Focusing on positive thoughts elevates the mood and reduces anxiety.

Extensive research has shown that patients who stay positive recover faster from surgery and illness. Looking on the bright side makes it easier to move on from setbacks and see them for what they are. To stay positive, identify areas that make you sad, practice self-talk, live a healthy lifestyle, and surround yourself with positive people. Positive thinking reduces the risk of terminal diseases and improves resistance to illness.

  • Stay Healthy

Substance abuse affects physical health—enlarged pupils, increased blood pressure, poor coordination, heart attack, stroke, etc. An important part of the recovery process is getting healthy physically. It is important to eat nutritious meals to aid the body’s recovery. Cultivate an active lifestyle by exercising, sleeping better, and building healthy habits.

Exercise is the body’s natural way of eliminating toxins the substance introduces. The body releases endorphins during work-outs that help reduce anxiety and depression. Exercise helps strengthen the bones and muscles and improves memory and brain functioning. Getting enough rest helps reduce stress hormones and improves the immune system. 

Remember, an idle mind is primed for a relapse. Sign up to the gym, go on road trips, and engage in camping activities to keep the mind more productive. The more you lead a healthy lifestyle, the less likely you slip into a relapse.

It’s all About the Approach

A relapse is not equivalent to failing. Failure only occurs when you refuse to try again. A relapse episode is not a cue to give up or abandon your efforts. Understand that it is a part of the recovery process and continue to work towards the goal of sobriety.

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