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How to Counteract Relapse Challenges with Ease

by Melissa Bell
6 minutes read

Recovering from substance dependence and addiction is a big step towards recovery and a healthier lifestyle in itself. But staying on the abstinence path and not getting distracted into the abyss of relapse takes a lot more determination and support.

Relapse and Therapy

Relapse is going back to the substance abuse after remaining substance-free for some time. It is a part of recovery and should be dealt with in the same way as therapy.

The substances of abuse affect the circuits and the cognitive functions of the brain. So, when the substance is removed from their system, they start having withdrawal symptoms and side effects. In the absence of therapy and detoxification setups, the individuals are most likely to go back to the substance as that may seem an easier option to curb the cravings.

For every single step of detox and therapy, the individual goes through various steps of personal growth and development. The risks of relapse are present in almost all individuals at every phase of the therapy and thus, the more important the need for skills to prevent an adverse event.


Points to Remember

The first and foremost fact: recognizing a relapse can prevent it from happening. Contact a drug rehab for more details. There are four viewpoints or ideas that can help prevent going into relapse. These viewpoints play roles in the everyday life and routines of the person:

  1. An effective and comprehensive addiction therapy is one that guides the individuals to early recognition of relapse.
  2. Every stage of recovery is connected to individual growth and risks of relapse.
  3. Cognitive therapy and mind-body relaxation exercises provide coping methods to individuals and are important tools for preventing relapse.
  4. Following rules to focus on what is important, changing lifestyle, asking for help, being honest, having self-care, and of course, sticking to these rules.

Stages of Relapse

Relapse presents itself in three stages, relating to three different modes of involvement.

  1. Emotional relapse- where the person unintentionally thinks and acts about a relapse, such as isolating self, feeling anxious, not sleeping well, etc.
  2. Mental relapse- when the conscious mind fights with the thoughts of relapse and giving in to the cravings.
  3. Physical relapse- when substance abuse is physically back and in regularity.

Relapse Prevention Skills and Tips

Triggers for relapse

A trigger usually precedes relapse. Knowing individual triggers give personal awareness of the risk of relapse. Some of the most potent triggers include:

  1. Mundane lifestyle and boredom;
  2. Stress, sleeplessness;
  3. Issues related to money and relationships;
  4. Anger, excessive sensitivity;
  5. Certain smells, sights, people, or places.

1. Self-care

The most common symptoms after withdrawal are sleeplessness and fatigue, which are also potential triggers. Additionally, hunger, anger, and loneliness also are potential triggers. Physical exercise, a balanced diet with high protein and low refined sugars, structured schedules, and self-care improve the quality of sleep and rehabilitate the body. Develop a positive surrounding, take up a creative hobby and keeping the mind occupied also fall in self-care techniques.

2. Support groups

Participation in support groups and therapy counselling not only gives the person the required boost to cope with cravings and focus on sobriety, but it also gives them a sense of responsibility and accountability towards the society. Once a client undergoes treatment and achieves sobriety, they can give more realistic and relatable support others who are troubled in the same situation.

3. An emergency contacts list

This should include the people who know how to handle the emotional turmoil of the affected person in case of an intense and difficult craving. They make individualized support systems for them and should be identified early in the treatment.

4. Thinking it through

In case of an unrelenting urge, think through in the mind what the scenario would look like from beginning to the end, including the consequences that would happen if they do or do not give in to the craving.

5. Getting help

Never be afraid to get help from the experts and the support groups. The professionals are trained specifically for giving the best options and management to the involved people.

6. Grounding techniques

Anxiety is a major factor for triggering relapse; grounding techniques focus on lessening the anxiety and acute stress in a person getting triggered towards relapse. One such technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 coping method where the triggering persons count objects involving their senses in a descending manner. For example, count 5 things that they can see, 4 things they can touch, 3 things they can smell, 2 things they can hear and 1 thing they can taste around them. This gives them time to relax and get their focus back.

7. Deep breathing

This has been a long-known technique for self-awareness, mental focus and inner peace. It follows taking a deep breath in by nose, holding in the breath for 4 seconds by pinching the nose, and then letting it out through the mouth, and repeating it four to five times for each cycle.

8. Complimentary pathways

Meditation, yoga, massage therapy, and acupuncture provide complementary pathways to give the individuals self-awareness, which in turn makes them more capable of coping with triggers and cravings. Mindfulness meditation encompasses awareness, attention, and focus on action and relevant details; while the holistic approach includes the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of the person.

If the relapse happens

In case if with all the precautionary measures, the cravings get out of control and the relapse occurs, it is best to seek help as soon as possible. Any delay in getting help may lead to increased substance abuse and dependence, which in turn links to greater withdrawal symptoms and recovery times. The health experts would need to re-evaluate the underlying conditions and medications to improve their coping skills.


Relapse prevention skills are a necessary part of recovery and detox programs. It enables individuals to cope with cravings and live lives in a complete and freeway. Being equipped with the coping and preventing techniques not only prevents the relapse but also gives the individual the confidence they need to control the anxiety of falling prey to the cravings.

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