Addiction Relapse: Prevention and Triggers

Here at Cedars, your full recovery is our sole purpose. While the road to sobriety begins with the personal decision to make a change, it is not guaranteed that all recovering substance users will have the same experience. While some remain sober after treatment, others relapse. For this reason it is important to acknowledge strategies that promote a healthy mental, physical, and emotional state.
A fulfilling life after rehabilitation is driven by positive thinking. In the typical recovery cycle it is normal for individuals to experience feelings of doubt and negativity- it is not an easy journey. Removing the substance is one thing, but changing behavioural habits is the difficult step in recovery. Change will occur once an individual is ready, willing, and open to learn about improving their life.
It is important to remember that recovery is an individual process. Our chemical, mental, and physical differences mean that we all have different coping tactics that vary in time and intensity for each person and each situation. It can be difficult and confusing to navigate all the options, so below are some personal methods that you can practice to minimize relapse and practice self-care:
Tips to Prevent Relapse
1. Foster a strong support system. In your recovery process, it is important to be in an environment that is accepting and supportive of your recovery. Whether it is a colleague, family member, friend, or counselor, having someone to talk to allows you to share your journey and reflect on your progress.
2. Continue to take personal inventory: examine not only your goals but how you are doing in reaching them! Set goals that are specific and you will be able to keep track of how well you are doing in achieving them. If your goals seem to large to achieve, then break them into smaller steps, and keep doing that until you have manageable goals. Make these something that you can achieve in the short term and build to longer term dreams. This technique will allow you to move forward and create a future that is free of substance use.
3. Post-rehabilitation care. The best steps to recovery following facilitated treatments are to attend supportive groups. Some examples of Twelve Step support groups are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA). You will find these groups to be very welcoming to newcomers and filled with people who share your experiences.
What can trigger a relapse?
An addiction relapse may be very sudden and can occur at any stage in the recovery process. Although identifying the exact cause can be difficult, it is important to acknowledge the common warning signs. Here are some triggers to look out for throughout the recovery process:
1. Social Media and Television. These days the internet plays a huge part in our daily lives. While social media has many perks, it can also have negative impacts. At early stages in the recovery process, it is a good idea to stay away from social media and cable television because of its unpredictability of content. More often than not, they present topics that are sensitive and inappropriate to some audiences. For this reason, those who have suffered from a Substance Use Disorder may see or hear something that will trigger a relapse.
2. Relationships. “You must love yourself before you love others.” This is especially important during recovery. It is important to form emotional independence and give proper attention to self-care. Dealing with heartbreak during recovery stages can cause negative stress which could lead to relapse.
3. Celebrations. Whether it is a birthday, graduation, or new job, people will have reason to celebrate. In North America we commonly celebrate success by consuming alcohol, however; there are other alternatives. To avoid temptation, consume non-alcoholic beverages and consider your surroundings.
When relapse occurs, falling into old habits is an immediate response and may happen during any stage of recovery. Throughout the treatment process, trust yourself and practice self-care- this will help you to achieve your goals and create the life you want to live.

The Four Agreements and Recovery

Recovery is a journey. While each path is unique, many individuals who struggle with addictions find that structured programs, in combination with other treatment methods like therapy, counselling or continuing support services, can be very effective in helping them achieve long-term recovery. One such program is The Four Agreements. Based on ancient Toltec Wisdom and developed by Don Miguel Ruiz, the Four Agreements are a set of principles and guidelines for living a fulfilling life with integrity and accountability. Meant for anyone who wants to improve their well-being, these agreements are particularly useful for those in recovery from addiction, and are often used alongside a 12-Step Program.

In his best-selling book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz defines an “agreement” as a code for understanding and communication. From early childhood and throughout our lives, we develop thousands of agreements with ourselves, some positive and others, not. Fear-based or negative agreements can prevent us from reaching our full potential and can cause immense unhappiness in our lives.This is especially true for those struggling with addictions. These individuals often get caught in self-centric destructive agreements, like shame, self-doubt and judgement of themselves and others.

In order to create love and happiness in your life, Don Miguel Ruiz invites individuals to break the habits of old agreements by adopting four new agreements that aim to build self-worth and personal power. By practicing these four guiding principles on a daily basis, you can break the negative agreements that have been holding you back and succeed on your path to recovery.

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word

 “Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean… Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”

Words can be a powerful force. Lies, false promises, deception – these are the words that surround addiction. In order to be impeccable with your word, you are encouraged to saying what you mean, ensuring that you are honest and truthful with both yourself and others. By using your words in the direction of truth and love, it will help you regain self-respect and respect from others.

  1. Don’t Take Anything Personally

 “Whatever happens around you don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”

 What other people think is not always the truth, and shouldn’t be accepted as such. With this agreement, the key is to learn and grow from all experiences, both positive and negative. This agreement invites us to see that the actions and decisions of others are always based on their experience. By agreeing to free ourselves from the burden of worrying about the way others see us, we are one step closer to reaching personal freedom.

  1. Don’t Make Assumptions

 “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.”

 Many individuals in active addiction share the sense that the world is out to get them. But just as we must agree not to take personally the words or actions of others, we must also not assume their thoughts. Sometimes a simple misunderstanding can lead to immense pain and resentments. Therefore, always ensure that you ask questions, remain curious, and communicate effectively so you fully understand what people are saying before taking their meaning to heart.

  1. Always Do Your Best

“Your best is going to change from moment to moment… Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.”

There’s no such thing as perfection, so why hold yourself to try to meet this expectation? What’s important is that you always strive to be your best self and follow the best course of action. It’s natural to sometimes stumble. And when you do, don’t judge yourself too harshly – just pick yourself up and stay positive.

At Cedars we believe in a holistic, invitational, and individualized approach to addiction treatment. To learn more about how we treat the body, mind, and spirit within our process addiction treatment program please visit our website . To speak to a member of our admissions department for information about residential addiction treatment for yourself or for a loved-one, please contact us . To learn more about the Four Agreements and the offerings of Don Miguel Ruiz please visit the author’s website .