Relapse is something all of us think about when we enter addiction treatment for drug or alcohol use. It’s a common problem among those who have decided to stop using. In fact, NIDA, or the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reports that as many as 60 percent of people who have been through addiction treatment will relapse.
Who’s to blame?
What can we do to lower these numbers?
Why do Some People Relapse, and Others Don’t?
To answer this question, we have to take a look at what I call our “recovery toolbox.”
Each person who has tried to get clean has one. To understand the “why” of relapse, we need to identify what’s in our toolbox, and how are we using these tools.
Willpower Alone Doesn’t Work
How many times has someone tried to encourage you by referring to your willpower or how badly you want recovery, “You can stay sober. You’ve just got to want it,” or “Just don’t pick up, no matter what!”
Not the greatest advice. Using willpower alone, a person can remain sober for an indefinite amount of time; days, weeks, maybe even decades. But using willpower means you are constantly battling the obsession day after day after day. It will eventually wear you down.
If willpower is the only tool in our toolbox, relapse is certain.
What Should be in Your Toolbox?
Think about a toolbox. It’s a container that holds all the tools you’ll need for a specific project. In this case, that project is you. When you’re living a sober life your toolbox can help you overcome temptations when they arise and prevent relapse— as long as you have the right tools. Here are just a few ideas of what should be in your toolbox.
- Daily affirmations or your favorite verses or quotes. These words work by reminding you of your truth and can provide the strength you need to walk away from tough situations. The old saying, “Garbage in, garbage out” applies here. We all need to fuel up with positivity and truth.
- An accountability partner. Surrounding yourself with people moving in the same direction as you, who have the same goals and life plans is wise. In the rooms they say, “Stick with the winners.” That’s because one word of hope from someone who is doing the deal with you can help remind you of who you are and why you chose sobriety in the first place. On the other hand, hanging around weak minded or wishy washy people who are struggling themselves is not a good idea in early sobriety.
- Physical exercise helps naturally increase dopamine in your brain, which helps you feel better and reduces symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. It can also help you sleep better and promote mental clarity.
- Individual, group or family therapy can help you get to the core issues at the root of your addiction, allow you to process your feelings in a healthy way, and help you to forgive. Therapy allows you to express yourself and let go of negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that can hurt your recovery.
- Mental health. There are 9 million people in the United States that suffer from a co-occurring disorder. This means they have both a mental health issue and a substance abuse issues. Relapse rates for these individuals are typically high if the mental health issue is not addressed after addiction treatment. For those with a co-occurring disorder, mental health treatment, medications or holistic treatment options should be part of their recovery toolbox.
- Nutrition. We are three part beings, —body, mind, and spirit. If one of these is off, it can put us at risk for relapse. Healthy eating can be difficult when recovering from drug or alcohol abuse. Many drugs cause cravings for sugar or other unhealthy foods, but nutrition should become a top priority when you’re living a sober life. The right foods help lower stress levels and promote a sense of well being.
- Your spiritual connection. There’s nothing as important as your spiritual condition. Remember, we mentioned willpower? When you have a spiritual connection, you don’t have to rely on only your own limited resources. You get to tap into the unlimited strength and hope that comes from your Creator. It’s because we choose to rely on a power greater than ourselves that we can live struggle-free, without the obsession to drink or use drugs. When the obsession is gone, we get to truly live happy, joyous and free!
Willpower alone can’t keep you sober forever. What other tools do you have in your toolbox and how have they helped you remain sober? If you’re concerned about avoiding relapse, your recovery toolbox is key!
If you or someone you love is ready to begin your recovery journey today, please reach out to Gracious Care Recovery Solutions today.