How to Avoid Post-Rehab Relapse

Between 60% to 85% of people experience a relapse of their addiction in a year after finishing a programme at a rehabilitation centre.

The challenge of remaining free from the grips of your addiction doesn’t end once you step out of the rehabilitation centre. Fighting and overcoming addiction is a lifelong journey in which your recovery requires commitment and active effort. 

Read below to learn what causes relapse and what measures you can take to avoid relapsing after finishing your rehab programme.

What Causes Post-Rehab Relapse?

Multiple physiological, environmental, and behavioural factors can cause relapse after finishing a rehabilitation programme. Relapse happens differently in everyone. For some, it’s only a few sips of alcohol which gradually turn into glasses over a few weeks, while for others, it’s a heavy dose of opioids they suddenly decide to take after a very stressful day. Addiction does not develop suddenly. A person may need weeks, months, and even years to become physiologically and emotionally dependent on something.

The resulting complex pattern of behaviour remains in the brain even after rehab. Consequently, encountering a trigger can lead to a sudden intense craving, making you relapse.

Even with the right mindset, best intentions, and effective organizational structures, you can still relapse. Here’s a thorough list of potential triggers to watch out for.

  • Visiting places where you used to consume the substance
  • Interacting with people with whom you’ve used the substance
  • Chronic stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression
  • Anger, frustration, and other bottled negative emotions
  • Loss of motivation, boredom, and nihilism
  • Loneliness and peer pressure
  • Troubles with close relationships
  • Withdrawal symptoms
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The Measures You Can Take to Avoid Relapse Post Rehab

Relapse doesn’t have to be inevitable. Here are all the steps you can take to significantly reduce your chances of turning back to addiction.

Have Confidence In Yourself

Before recovery, many people suffering from addiction have had relationship issues and troubles at work and have been victims of harsh judgement and societal stigmatisation. The result is often low self-esteem and much doubt in one’s abilities and potential. Self-doubt can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where perceiving yourself as weak and incompetent, along with the expectation to relapse, makes you eventually turn back on your progress.

To fight against that, don’t panic and remind yourself that you’ve successfully put in immense effort to complete rehab. Even if you’ve relapsed in the past and experienced setbacks, you are more than capable to stay on track this time.

Avoid Temptations And Triggers

Staying away from temptations and triggers is essential to avoid compulsive behaviour. Many people have the false belief that you can build endurance and challenge yourself to resist your addiction by exposing yourself to opportunities for relapsing. Unfortunately, addiction is not a game of willpower, the way your brain is wired makes the craving so intense that it can bypass any rational thought.

A trigger can be anything your brain associates with the source of your addiction: shows and books, relatives and friends with which you’ve developed the addiction, places where you used to consume or where you use people using the substance, highly stressful situations, etc. It’s best to avoid taking the risk of building endurance, and stay away from temptations by building alternative environments and relationships.

Changing environments, in particular, is essential to avoid relapse since your brain tends to make strong associations between a location and the type of activity you’d regularly do in there. For example, if the nearby bar used to be your favourite place to blow some steam off, you can start going to the park, library, or any other place of interest.

Take Advantage Of Support Groups

Often, addiction is caused by isolation, and relapse may happen if you feel lonely, with nobody to cheer your progress and offer support when you are feeling down. While behaviour adjustments, planning and organization work well, you don’t have to be  alone in the fight against addiction. Once you come out of rehab, many centres offer some form of outpatient programmes, counselling or meetings with other people going through the same, such as 12-step treatment.

Counselling and therapy can be excellent ways to share your struggles, seek understanding, and receive sound advice from an expert. Enrolling on meetings, finding a one-on-one sponsor, or finding somebody you trust can also help keep you accountable to your goals.

Keep Yourself Occupied

There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking a break and staying idle. However, monotony and boredom can make you start romanticising your past addiction, daydarem fantasies of taking the substance again, and open the door for other creeping thoughts that can gradually wear you down.Either by yourself or with the help of a sponsor and your counsellor, take the time to plan your biggest personal and professional priorities and the goals you wish to pursue. Create a schedule where you dedicate some portion of your day to work toward them.

You don’t have to get obsessed with keeping busy, overworking and stressing yourself over your progress can be equally harmful. However, having a structure upon which you can rely and staying consistent allows you a foundation to fall back upon whenever you struggle.

Develop Healthy Habits

Exercising regularly, sleeping well, and having a healthy diet can improve your physical and mental health. As a result, you can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms’ and reduce your cravings.

Regular exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety, and depression by increasing the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, and other chemicals like serotonin and various endorphins, improving your mood and making you feel more content [2] [3].

Sleep is essential to maintain proper brain chemistry and hormonal balance, but it also allows you to exercise self-control better. Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase irritability and impulsivity, increasing relapse chances [4].

Conclusion

Relapse is possible for many people who return from rehab, but it doesn’t have to be inevitable. With the right mindset, proper changes to your environment, and the support of social networks and professionals, you can considerably reduce your chances of falling back in the hands of addiction.

References:

  1. Ennour-Idrissi, Kaoutar, et al. “Effect of Physical Activity on Sex Hormones in Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Breast Cancer Research : BCR, BioMed Central, 5 Nov. 2015.
  2. Craft, Lynette L., and Frank M. Perna. “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed.” Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 2004.
  3. Grant, Jon E, and Samuel R Chamberlain. “Sleepiness and Impulsivity: Findings in Non-Treatment Seeking Young Adults.” Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Akadémiai Kiadó, 1 Sept. 2018.