Dealing with the Speed Bumps of Recovery

Addiction recovery is a complicated and difficult process that includes its share of failure and frustration. Relapse is common for the majority of recovering addicts, but the difference between lasting recovery and hopelessness is how you respond to bumps in the road.

Why Is Relapse so Common?

Alcoholism is a physical and psychological disease that requires physical and psychological healing, which takes a lot of time to achieve. While physical withdrawal symptoms run their course in a matter of days, the psychological challenges remain in place for months or even years, because alcoholism rewires neural pathways in the brain to reinforce addictive behavior. Recovery allows addicts’ brains to reconnect previously abandoned pathways that encourage feelings of peacefulness, pleasure, confidence, self-respect, motivation and happiness without drugs. Unfortunately, the dysfunctional pathways caused by alcoholism never fully go away; they always linger in the background, needing only a moment of weakness to come roaring back to life.

Most relapses are caused by an experience or emotion that triggers a craving. The following list contains some common alcohol relapse triggers:

  • The breakup of a relationship
  • Employment challenges
  • Financial stress
  • Family stress or drama
  • Physical pain or distress
  • Insecurity
  • Boredom

The brain remembers the relief alcohol once provided for these problems, so it will crave that relief in a powerful way when hard times come. Problems always come in life, and many alcoholics relapse one or more times before developing the skills to respond differently to such cravings.

Preparing for Triggers and Relapse In Advance

Because future stress is guaranteed, it is highly recommended for recovering alcoholics to plan ahead for both temptation and relapse. Developing an escape plan for alcohol temptations is like practicing an escape plan for a fire: if you wait until your house is on fire to think about how you can escape, then you may take a wrong path and suffer disastrous consequences. However, if you practice your escape route ahead of time, then you are much more likely to survive. Here are a few proven escape routes for avoiding relapse during a trial:

  • Call a friend, counselor or sponsor immediately to talk about your cravings
  • Practice the coping skills you learned in rehab (meditation, breathing, mindfulness, prayer and etc.)
  • Get involved in a positive community activity, such as volunteering
  • Attend a 12-step recovery meeting
  • Read healthy books or articles and listen to encouraging music

The longer you wait before reaching out during a craving, the harder reaching out will become. Remember that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to cravings. Talk about them, be encouraged in your healthy thinking and move on.

The Importance of Aftercare

That strong, ongoing aftercare is important cannot be overstated. Regular meetings and ongoing counseling is critical, especially when you think you don’t need it anymore. If you have never experienced comprehensive treatment with aftercare, then please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now. Our admissions coordinators are standing by with encouraging words, answers and access to amazing aftercare resources for you. Seek help to get and stay clean from drugs.

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