A large part of recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is preventing relapse. A relapse occurs when someone returns to their addictive behavior by using drugs or alcohol, but it’s not simply the actual event of picking up a substance- it’s a process that occurs over time. Preventing relapse requires using several different strategies and having a plan for dealing with “triggers.”
What are Triggers, and What Do They Have to Do With Preventing Relapse?
Triggers refer to events, emotions, or behaviors that may cause someone to experience a craving to use drugs or alcohol. In early sobriety, triggers can be anything from experiencing trauma to hearing a song that reminds the individual of what they enjoyed about drug use (this is called “euphoric recall.”) These triggers vary based on the individual, but there are some that can be eliminated easily. It sounds simple, but preventing relapse can sometimes be as simple as using the HALT method.
Triggers can be as complex as having flashback memories of a traumatic event. Or, they can come from experiencing other symptoms of a mental condition like PTSD that may cause someone to seek comfort or relief from a substance. They can come in the form of spending time with friends who still use drugs or being around alcohol. However, they can also be very simple problems that can be handled easily, through preparation and paying attention to one’s own physical and emotional state.
The HALT Method
HALT is an acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. These four feelings can put an individual in recovery in a vulnerable state in which they may be more likely to pick up a drink or a drug. Part of preventing relapse is using the HALT method to recognize when you’re in a vulnerable state and to use self-care to get back into a better physical and emotional condition in which you will be less likely to relapse. Here’s why the HALT method is important, and how you can use it in your daily recovery to take care of yourself and take steps toward preventing relapse:
It’s no question, being hungry can cause us to make irrational decisions. That’s why the word “hangry” exists- to describe the irritability and anger that comes from not having enough fuel to make good choices and function. When we’re too hungry, we may be snappy, emotional, and impulsive- just not ourselves. If this happens in a moment of weakness and there are drugs and alcohol around, there is a possibility of making a snap bad decision. Carry snacks, like a granola bar or an apple around with you, and make sure to eat regular, balanced meals.
Carrying around anger or resentment can lead to feeling justified in acting out. When we believe that someone has wronged us, it can lead to reckless choices, including using or drinking. In order to prevent anger from becoming out of control and influencing your actions, confront situations that bother you assertively, and open up about things that bother you rather than letting them weigh on your mind.
Loneliness can cause people to turn to anything for comfort. Without sober support and friends, it’s easy to make bad choices because no one is there to hold us accountable. Also, feeling isolated from people can be extremely painful and alienating, making a substance seem more appealing and comforting. To deal with loneliness, make sure to reach out to sober supports who can lend an ear.
Exhaustion can do funny things to the brain, much like hunger. Without enough sleep, our judgment starts to become impaired, emotions feel more intense, and basic functioning is harder. Lack of sleep can also lead to depression and physical problems like high blood pressure. All of these factors can lead to feeling out of control or even just uncomfortable. This can turn into a trigger to use drugs or alcohol as a form of comfort or self-medication. Getting eight hours of sleep each night can go a long way toward improving mental health and preventing relapse.
Relapse Prevention Therapy
The best way to prevent relapse is to seek effective, quality treatment for a substance abuse problem and to build a solid foundation for recovery. Treatment should include clinical hours devoted to making plans for preventing relapse in “the real world.” At Wellness Retreat Recovery, this is offered to all clients as a part of the unique, individual treatment plans we develop for each person enrolled in our program. For more information about treatment and preventing relapse, call Wellness today at 888-821-0238.