What is Relapse Prevention?
Relapse Prevention is a strategy for reducing the likelihood of a relapse from alcohol, substance and other addictive behaviours. It incorporates many different factors; there is no limit to what needs to be included in a plan in order to ensure a continuous sobriety.
At Addiction Rehab Toronto, we help individuals to identify and process things in life that create barriers and creates challenges that could lead to potential using. With the help of our Clinical team, individuals can identify potential triggers such as emotions, feelings, thoughts, situations, people and much more. After identifying, our experienced team will help individuals move into strategies that work through life skills, coping skills, communication skills and anger management.
Relapse Prevention Plan at Addiction Rehab Toronto
As stated before, Relapse Prevention incorporates an array of action plans and discussions about addiction. There is no limitation on the trajectory of the needs of an individual within relapse prevention. Our weekly programming is not just or limited to the conversations below.
Returning to Previous Harmful Behaviours
Before we work on a Relapse Prevention routine, individuals must do the work of self-reflection. This includes the discovery and identification of harmful behaviours that lead to or affect addiction and addictive behaviours. Self-awareness allows individuals to understand who we are, what has shaped us, why we are the way we are, and where to go from here. In addition, it allows individuals to compare their current behaviour to behaviours during their addiction. According to most addiction studies, cognitive behaviour approaches to relapse prevention help individuals identify high-risk behaviours and assist individuals in maintaining desired behaviour changes. For example: codependency, situational, emotional or even spiritual.
Within recovery, Abstinence is a term in the addictions field “to describe the process of abstaining — avoiding or not engaging in — addictive substances or behaviours.” Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was the first program focused specifically on treating addiction. The cornerstone of their approach is abstinence from alcohol and other substances during recovery. It uses an all-or-nothing approach, which for some people, can be hard. The Big Book, the foundation of A.A., and the Twelve Steps does not advocate a lifetime of abstinence as a goal, instead it advises that the true meaning of “one day at a time” is to keep an eye on each day’s goal of maintaining and enhancing successful strategies of sobriety. Abstinence can address the combination of biopsychosocial factors of an individual.
The biopsychosocial model of disease believe that drug-based symptoms manifest themselves during sobriety-based symptoms which emerge during periods of abstinence. It believes that health, lifestyle, the brain, emotions are all predictions of relapse. The theory promotes the need to address the biological (physical), the Psychological (mental health, emotions, behaviours, communications, anger, etc) and the social (relationships, criminal involvement, sex, codependency, etc.)
Managing Cravings and Triggers
Cravings look and feel different for everyone. Cravings are an intense desire or compulsion to use alcohol, substances or other addictive behaviours: It is a combination of thoughts, feelings, behaviours and memories.
During a craving, areas of the brain that create drive are activated while the areas that restrain these urges are deactivated. The brain is basically hijacked to make rational decisions.
A plan to reduce cravings and triggers can help individuals understand potential high-risk situations and when to apply effective learning and coping responses. Similarly, to understand when triggers or cravings occur and know what our action plan will be. For example: seeking support systems like counsellors, friends and family during a time of cravings, thus being able to talk and process through feelings (remember, the moment will pass.) Another example include: A potential trigger can be relationships. Is there something about relationships that create anxiety? What type of communication skill can be used when this happens?
During Addiction Recovery, an individual is building a new brain. They are rewiring the brain to develop healthier habits, re-learn skills and create new neural pathways. And in order for this to happen, we must continuously practice these new healthier behaviours and actions.
Within a Relapse Prevention plan, there is a need to identify “cues” associated with addiction (the sights, smells, locations, people, etc) through Cue Exposure Therapy. When an individual develops a learning behaviour habit, the brain creates a path in itself to support that habit. An individual must identify harmful learned behaviours that developed during active addiction and continuously work using new strategies and new healthier learning behaviours to lower the risk of a potential relapse. At Addiction Rehab Toronto, our clinical team can work with an individual to help them identify these cues and behaviours, and work towards practicing better and healthier ones.
Have you ever notice yourself saying “I already know that, I don’t need to do anymore.” or something like, “I already know that, why should I listen to it again?”
Overconfidence can be dangerous in recovery because individuals can make themselves believe they can return to past addictive behaviours and then retreat back their stance in recovery. Overconfidence allows individuals to believe their problems aren’t “that bad” or “they can quit at any time.” Which simulates ideas such as: I don’t need support, I don’t need help, I am not deserving of help, I am a failure or I am weak. This is untrue – At Addiction Rehab Toronto, you are not alone, and you are deserving of help.
Confidence can allow space for self-affirmation, a healthy support system, help stop comparing yourself to others, and to help you focus on goals. Confidence is acknowledging you can always learn more.
Some tips on what to do if Overconfidence behaviour occurs:
Observing our Thoughts: With practice, an individual will understand how to reflect on own thoughts and feelings – which allows an individual to stay attuned with themselves and their environment. Staying aware of thoughts, feelings and emotions – gives an individual more control over their actions.
Watching our Actions: Overconfidence is not just in thoughts – but in our actions. Overconfidence will have you believe that you are ready to engage in risky behaviours, when you are not. It’s okay to set boundaries of what you don’t want to do.
Action Plans: At Addiction Rehab Toronto, an action plan is important an Addiction Recovery. Write down potential triggers or cravings whether it relates to feelings, thoughts, situations or people – and write an array coping strategies or action plans. Decide which one is best for which situation.
Importance of Self-Care
Think about your own experience, why do we use? Is it stress? Is it to cope with negative emotions? Is it external factors like family, work, or money? Or is it all of the above? That is why there is a need to start talking about self-care within Addiction Recovery.
Simply, if an individual is not taking care of themselves, they put themselves at risk: an individual may suffer by losing the ability to concentrate and the ability to cope with cravings and triggers can become compromised.
Self-care is very important. Self-care can become a tool in our progress and journey for a healthier, sober life. It can help an individual cope when put into situations or feelings of vulnerability, negative and/or lack of motivation. Neglecting self-care can have negative effects on the body, mind, and spirit. For this reason, it is important to have self-care strategies that address each of these parts of ourselves. Based from Indigenous teachings of healing, we can identify areas in life that need attention:
Spiritual: Faith, Self-Reflection, Inspiration, Traveling, Learning, and Meditation.
Emotional: Support systems, Self-affirmation, Therapy, Crying, and Laughing.
Physical: Nutrition, Exercising, Yoga, Dental Care, Sleep, and Drinking Water.
Mental: Journaling, Reading, Compliments, Saying “no,” and CBT.
Managing Euphoric Recall
Euphoric recall is a state or form in which we only focus on the positive memories of active addiction/alcohol abuse and blocking out the negative memories. Because the recollection of memories are managed in the same area of the brain, it may only choose to bring up good memories of active addiction/alcohol abuse. An individual will not remember the pain, sickness, destruction, disappointment or entrapment feelings of addiction.
Euphoric recall can lead an individual to obsess about the addiction and utilize their time only thinking of using again. This leads to obsession with the memories of “how good it used to be” and fantasies of “how could it be in the future.”
Euphoria is short lived. It may feel good at that moment, but the long-term physical, mental, emotional, and health damage is not worth it. If using is getting in the way of living your true life, living the life you want, being with the people you love, going to the places you want – is a temporary rush, worth it? Never. At Addiction Rehab Toronto, our clinical team will help individuals work through euphoric recalls and offer strategies to put in place when or if it occurs again.
High risk situations can be people, places, things, triggers, thoughts, actions and/or emotions. When an individual can identify these situations, our clinical team can help work through how to either avoid, manage, cope or respond to them.
Examples of High-Risk situations, include:
Times of Celebration: The plenty of moments of desire to participate in addiction derive from feelings of celebration and/or socialization. For example: family gathering during the Holidays. A way to set boundaries is telling family and friends that it’s okay to enjoy themselves, but as an individual in Recovery, to respect that celebration can happen while sober as well.
Times of Sadness: Moments and situations of sadness evoked by emotions of anxiety, guilt, fear, loneliness, isolation and shame can create a desire to use. For example: going back to a bar that brings back memories of an ex-wife. Through the action plan in place, go back and use the many coping strategies learned at Addiction Rehab Toronto – know the moment is sad, but temporary: give yourself time and take it day by day.
Times of Boredom: Lately, it seems like there is no time for anything. Busy bees roaming the world, when left alone – there is a sense of “what is there to do?” Active addiction can be used as a way to entertain the self. An individual may not know or never have had the chance to be with themselves – it feels odd to be do nothing. For example: Watching a hockey game alone and allowing yourself a few beers. At Addiction Rehab Toronto, mindfulness and patience is a virtue. We re-teach individuals how to cope with silence, and being alone with their own thoughts. Give yourself a break, take a few moments to breathe, take a nap, and most importantly, don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself.
The Importance of an After care Routine
We cannot stress this enough – everyone need support during Addiction Recovery. This means, as a means of Relapse Prevention, and aftercare routine plan needs to be inplace.
A part of relapse prevention is to create a plan for yourself. This includes the discovery and identification of harmful behaviours that lead to or affect addiction/alcohol abuse. According to most addiction studies, cognitive behaviour approaches to relapse prevention help individuals identify high-risk behaviours and assist individuals in maintaining desired behavioural changes.
This can look like attending our After-care program, going to fellowship meetings, seeking support groups and attending out outpatient counselling. Staying involved with an effective aftercare routine you will be provided with the following benefits: maintained the gains you’ve made in treatment, being supported through a very difficult time, develop new coping behaviours/ techniques/ strategies to challenges you hadn’t previously faced, learn what further changes need to be made in your life and find enjoyment in living a sober lifestyle.
After-care routines is about taking care of the self – whether it’s self-care, family time, or exercising – it’s important to do things that we love.
Relapse Prevention and Addiction Recovery
Relapse begins before using. It does not necessarily mean using, but it could start with a reminder of using or even going back to old routines and behaviours. The first part of living a healthier life is to do your own self-reflection and self-understanding of your own using and your own behaviour
Treat sobriety as a continuous learning progression, everyday we find out something new about ourselves, others and the world. And isn’t that a wonderful thing?