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10 Strategies for Fighting Thoughts of Relapse


danger thin iceIt is usual for those recovering from addiction to occasionally experience thoughts of relapse. These episodes of uncertainty about recovery should become less frequent over time, but it is important to have some strategies for dealing with them for when they do arise. If you find that you are regularly thinking about relapse then it could be a sign that you are off-track in recovery and need to take action to fix the problem.

Below are 10 strategies for dealing with thoughts of relapse. It is usually best to use a number of these strategies together in order to regain control over your sobriety. If the thoughts of relapse persist, or you feel close to drinking or using again, it is vital that you seek the help of a professional or a sponsor.

1. Talk about How Your Are Feeling

You know the saying about a problem shared being a problem halved. Well this is definitely the case when it comes to having thoughts of relapse. In fact, the worst thing you could possible do is to keep this type of thinking to yourself. It is nothing to feel ashamed about – the internal rewards system in your brain is wired to associate alcohol or drugs with pleasure. By talking about your relapse thoughts, you can get some support and practical advice for dealing with the problem. If you try to hide these thoughts then it means that you are once again trying to fight your demons alone – not a great idea.

2. Avoid Relapse Triggers

If you are having thoughts about drinking or using drugs again, it is vital that you are very careful around relapse triggers; this refers to any event or condition that increases your likelihood of relapse. The most well known of these triggers includes hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness (these are easy to remember with the acronym HALT). Other triggers you need to be aware of include frustration, self-pity, disappointment, unrealistic expectations, unethical behaviour, and guilt. As soon as you become aware that you are dealing with any of these conditions, you need to take action to protect your sobriety; for example, if you are hungry, you should eat something right away.

3. Stop Feeling Guilty About Relapse Thoughts

Relapse thoughts are to be expected, especially if you have been abusing alcohol or drugs for many years. Feeling guilty about having these thoughts will not make anything better, and you could be putting your sobriety at risk by engaging in this type of self-abuse. It is important to be alert for relapse thoughts, but this is not so that you can beat yourself up when it happens.

4. Redouble Your Efforts in Recovery

If you are regularly having thoughts about relapse, it may be a warning sign that your sobriety is in jeopardy. It is usual for many to spend some time ‘romancing the drink or drug’ as part of the relapse process. You need to take action to get your sobriety back on track. The type of action you might want to take could include:

  • going to more recovery fellowship meetings
  • joining a recovery fellowship
  • spending more time with people in recovery
  • reading more inspirational recovery material
  • spending time with a therapist
  • picking up some new sobriety tools
  • starting a recovery journal
  • joining the online recovery community.

5. Help Others Dealing with Addiction

One of the effective things you can do to strengthen your recovery is to spend some time helping others. The benefits of this type of work include:

  • it increases your self-esteem
  • it reminds you of what you could end up going back to
  • it is an opportunity to give something back
  • it strengthens your commitment to sobriety
  • it allows you to develop a fresh perspective on your own problems
  • it is a way to pick up some new sobriety tools.

It is important that you only get involved in this type of work if you feel strong enough to do so. It might be a very bad idea to be spending time helping those still drinking or using drugs if you feel on the verge of relapse yourself.

If you are a member of a fellowship like Alcoholics Anonymous, you will have plenty of opportunities to do some type of service. There are many different ways to help – even sharing at a meeting could be considered a way of helping others because you are allowing them to benefit from your hope, strength, and experience.

6. Learn to be Mindful

Mindfulness is a type of meditation technique that can be particularly good for those dealing with addiction problems. One of the real advantages of this technique is that it increases your ability to deal with cravings and urges; you learn to deal with your thoughts in a far more objective way. This means that when thoughts of relapse do arise, you do not feel overly threatened and are able to observe the thought without being caught up with it. You understand that thoughts are just like clouds passing through the sky of your mind; they only really become a problem when you latch onto them.

7. Count Your Blessings

Another great way to combat thoughts of relapse is to remember to be grateful for all the good things in your new sober life. It has been said that a grateful person in recovery will never relapse, and there does seem to be a great deal of truth in this. Focusing on all the good stuff increases your commitment to sobriety, meaning that you can almost automatically discount any thoughts of drinking. The difficult thing is remembering to be grateful, which is why maintaining a daily gratitude diary can be a wonderful tool in recovery.

8. Spend Time with Inspiring People

Did you know that you are likely to become the average of the five people you spend most of your time with? The message from this is clear: if you want to improve your life, you need to be spending time around the right types of people. If you are currently dealing with thoughts of relapse, you can reenergize your sobriety by spending time with those who are doing well in recovery. This is will remind you of what can be achieved by sticking to this path of self-development.

9. Reignite Your Sobriety by Going to Rehab

If you are caught up in pattern of thinking that keeps taking you back to thoughts of relapse, you might need to do something a bit more substantial to deal with this threat. One solution is to choose an advanced rehab programme – these are for those already sober and ready to take their recovery up a notch. The idea of a rehab for sober people is relatively new but an increasing number of facilities are offering this type of programme. You can even go to an exotic location like South Africa or Thailand for this boost to your sobriety.

10. Start Blogging about Your Struggles in Recovery

Starting a blog can be a great decision because it not only means you share your experiences, but you can also get feedback and support; just remember to allow comments on each post. Keeping a blog provides many of the benefits of journaling but also the additional benefits associated with belonging to a community. The other great thing about this option is that your efforts can also be of great value to others in the same position as you.

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