The Sober Living AZ Blog

Tips On How To Overcome Withdrawal & Avoid Relapse

Posted on 11/30/19: Relapse Prevention

Relapse is something recovering addicts dread more than a trip to the dentist or any major surgery. The fact that it is so common among those in treatment for their addiction is certainly dismaying. A person may relapse anywhere from one to a hundred times before sobriety sticks, and there’s no way of knowing what your number is going to be. But the good news is there are things you can do to prevent a relapse from occurring. This is because relapse doesn’t occur suddenly or on a whim when a person least expects it. It is the result of a buildup of unchecked grief and emotional turmoil, that will eventually push a person past their breaking point if not managed properly. However, the key thing to note here is that because relapse is the result of many things that add up over time, it is possible to overcome the negative feelings that often bubble up during the recovery process. We will also be sharing our tips to overcome withdrawal, the first step of the detox process.

The Withdrawal Process: Setting yourself up for Success

Withdrawal is something that all people who have been addicted to a substance must go through during the detox process on their journey to become sober. This part of the process is where most people relapse early on, and this is because the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and even painful. The best thing you can do to prepare for going through withdrawal during detox is to set yourself up for success. The good news is, once you finally get the last remnants of the substance out of your body, you’ll be able to fully focus on building the skills necessary to live out the rest of your life drug and alcohol-free.

If you haven’t started the detox process yet, you may be having feelings of fear and uncertainty with the looming prospect of withdrawal symptoms you are bound to experience during the detox period. This is one of the many reasons that we strongly urge you to consider going through a certified treatment center. When you go to a professional treatment facility to detox, you are given medications to help minimize the withdrawal symptoms. Your health is also monitored so that if any life-threatening issues arise, they can be dealt with in the appropriate ways to ensure you are as safe as you can be during the entire detox process.

There are also professional counselors at a treatment facility that you can talk to during your entire recovery process to guide you through the mental trials and tribulations you will encounter. They will help you manage your emotions and find a place of solace within your mind to escape to when things get rough. Being able to talk things out with a professional counselor will allow you to confront past trauma and start down a path of increased psychological wellbeing and awareness. The staff at the treatment facility is well equipped to deal with all of the ugliness that comes with detox. They understand that it is a difficult time for you emotionally, and know exactly how to help guide you through this difficult time without taking things personally.

Understanding relapse

Often times, relapse is seen as a major failure — but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, relapse sucks, and it usually sets a person back from their goal of sobriety. Yet the truth is, relapse is a natural part of the recovery process. Drug relapse statistics show that more than 85% of individuals experience relapse and return to drug use within the year following their treatment. It is also estimated that more than ⅔ of those in recovery relapse within weeks to months of beginning addiction treatment (Sinha 2006). These statistics may be shocking and discouraging, but know that most people relapse due to a lack of planning and proper aftercare following the conclusion of treatment. It may take multiple relapses for them to finally build the knowledge and skills necessary to avoid it in the future, and that takes some significant trial and error for many. On a more positive note, researchers have estimated that up to 80% of people who find long-term sobriety relapse at least once along the way. So don’t worry if you’re on your second, tenth, or hundredth relapse. You can have what it takes to stay sober, no matter how many times you’ve experienced setbacks.

Luckily, by reading this article, you are taking a very important step in your recovery journey. This is part of building the knowledge needed to fight the conditions that lead to relapse. By arming yourself with information and coping skills, you are putting yourself in a very good position to steer clear of turning back to your addiction when times get tough. 

Learn to recognize an impending relapse.

Knowing the signs that a relapse may be bubbling up is crucial to avoid it. The better you know yourself and your triggers, the easier it will be to stop them in their tracks before they affect you too much emotionally. Here are some signs that a relapse may be on the horizon:

High levels of stress. High stress is one of the leading causes of addiction, as there is a strong relationship between the two. Experiencing stress in one’s life is completely normal and even healthy, but too much stress can become overwhelming and too much for one person to handle. 

Change in attitude and mood. If you notice that you are feeling hopeless about things you were once passionate about (i.e. going to recovery meetings, spending time with family and friends, etc), this could be an indicator of relapse.

Denial of change in mood. You find yourself experiencing the beforementioned changes in mood, but are continuously denying those feelings or attempting to pretend that you are fine. Because of this, you may prevent yourself from reaching out for help, which in turn could leave you even more susceptible to relapse.

Recurrence of withdrawal symptoms. It is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms, even after your detox period has “ended.” These are called post-acute withdrawal symptoms, and they can resurface during times of stress. 

Behavior changes. You may notice yourself slipping back into old behavior patterns that existed when you were in the midst of addiction.

Decline in socialization. Avoidance of social situations and isolation can be a sign that you need help.

Change in routine. Having a routine post-detox can be extremely helpful in staying sober. But if you find that your new routine is starting to break down, this will make it more difficult to maintain your sobriety.

Poor judgment/making poor decisions. This is where things may really start to break down. You may begin having trouble making decisions or find yourself making unhealthy decisions. These decisions may be spurred from irrational anger, confusion, stress, irritation, etc. After making these choices, you may be unable to manage the consequences, causing things in your life to spiral out of control. 

Thinking of going back to your addiction. Feelings of hopelessness may cause you to entertain thoughts of “just having one drink” or “just spending $50 at the casino” in an attempt to make yourself feel better. You may think you can control it, and you won’t become addicted again.

Build up a strong support network

Addiction can be one of the loneliest experiences one can face. The nature of the illness creates rifts between family, friends, and relationships. However, during recovery, having a support system to lean on is one of the biggest contributing factors to success (Boisvert, et. al). A strong support system greatly reduces your chances of relapsing. There’s a reason why peer support groups are implemented in almost all recovery programs across the country. They provide a variety of benefits to a person who has made a commitment to achieving lifelong sobriety. Here are some ways to rebuild or build your support system:

  • Apologize to the ones you have hurt.
  • Educate yourself and others about what you need to heal.
  • Let people know how they can best help.
  • Stay responsive and update loved ones on your progress when you can.
  • Show your gratitude. 

For a full guide, check out this article on Finding a Support System in Recovery.

In addition, finding a peer support group can really help hold you stay accountable in your sobriety. If you’re in a treatment program, you likely already meet with a peer support group, but if you don’t have access to this resource, there are plenty of locally organized groups for people struggling with addiction. Check out this site to find a support group that best fits your needs, and you can locate a meeting in your area from there.

Regularly attend counseling sessions

Going to individual or group counseling is imperative in building and strengthening healthy coping skills, which can be the difference between relapse and not. Counseling does a number of things. It:

  • Addresses flaws in thinking and teaches the person to productively modify them
  • Helps the person combat negative thoughts and behaviors
  • Provides coping methods and skills

…And so much more

Having the ability to accurately assess what you’re thinking and where those negative thoughts are coming from (and subsequently understanding what you need to do to combat them) is essential to lifelong sobriety.

Lifelong sobriety is possible!

Don’t feel discouraged along the way if you find yourself thinking about relapsing or even actually experiencing a relapse. Remember, it’s all part of the process. Keep working on building yourself up and learning what works for you, and you’ll be living the sober life before you know

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.

Content for Scottsdale Recovery Center and Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.

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