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10 Tips for Avoiding Relapse


Woody Schuldt, LMHC

Achieving sobriety is tough, and so is maintaining it. We've put together ten tips to help you stay on track after you've decided to kick your addiction. That being said, these tips aren't a panacea, and one size doesn't fit all. Everyone should take the time to adapt these relapse prevention tips to their own situation. Check the end of the article for a printable version to keep near by and refer to in times of need, or to share with clients.

1The most important moment before relapse isn't the final decision to use a drug. It's when you decide to expose yourself to triggers. For example, a trigger could be going to a party or walking through the liquor section at the store. Before encountering your triggers, you still have most of the control. Not your craving.

2If you're feeling the urge to use, try to wait it out. If you distract yourself for even 30 minutes, it's likely your craving will lessen in intensity. It might not totally disappear, but it will be easier to resist.

3Focus on replacing your past drug use with new positive activities. If you used to go home after work and drink, you'll need to make a new plan to occupy yourself. Going home and staring at a wall will eventually lead to staring at a wall with a drink in your hand.

4Don't try to do this alone. Sharing your goals for sobriety with a friend makes all the difference. They can hold you accountable when you're making questionable decisions ("I'm just going to the bar to hang out, I won't drink!") and they can offer a kind ear when you're struggling.

5Remind yourself that cravings will pass. Have you ever had that experience when you're sick where you can't remember what it feels like to not be sick? The same thing happens with cravings. Give it time, and believe it or not, the feeling will go away.

6You'll have to make sacrifices beyond giving up the drug. If you previously used during specific activities (for example, watching a game on TV, going to concerts, or spending time with friends), you may need to make changes. This might mean not watching the game, or making new friends who are sober. This can be really hard, but that's what makes it a sacrifice.

7Have a plan for when things get bad, because at some point, they will. People get fired, hearts get broken, and sometimes people leave us forever. Develop a plan to get through these major life challenges--without the use of drugs--before they happen.

8Don't become complacent with your sobriety. If you someday consider having "just a glass of wine with dinner," don't make the decision lightly. If you've struggled with addiction in the past, you are much more likely to develop an addiction again.

9If you do relapse, don't give up. A lot of people find it helpful to keep track of how long they've been sober, but don't confuse this count with the true goal of leading a happy and fulfilling life. If you're at day 100 of sobriety, that's great. However, if you make a mistake and end up back at day 0, know that you are not starting over (you have knowledge, experience, and confidence. In other words: Slipping up is not a license to go on a binge.

10Come up with new rituals. How do you celebrate holidays, promotions, or any other happy occasion? If your answer includes any sort of drug, you'll want to get creative and figure out something new. Go wild with a hobby for the day, treat yourself to a nice dinner, or take a weekend trip. Make sure it's something you can get excited about.

If you found these tips helpful you can print them out to keep handy, or to share with clients. Check out the worksheet version in the link below:


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