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Drug and Alcohol Relapse Prevention

Relapse can affect the lives of addicts and alcoholics at any stage of their recovery, but individuals in early sobriety are at the greatest risk of suffering a relapse in drinking or drug use. That’s why it is vital for addicts and alcoholics in early recovery to have access to comprehensive relapse prevention therapy. Drug and alcohol relapse prevention helps to strengthen the foundation of recovery that people build in the early stages of abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and helps individuals to avoid the tragic consequences of picking up a drink or a drug after a period of sobriety. At the Discovery Institute in New Jersey, we offer all of our clients effective, quality relapse prevention therapy.

Why Drug and Alcohol Relapse Prevention Matters

Relapse can be an unfortunate reality in recovery, but it doesn’t have to be. At the Discovery Institute, we work with each of our clients to create a strong drug and alcohol relapse prevention plan that lasts throughout treatment, during the client’s transition back into “the real world” and in their lifelong recovery program.

Relapse rates drop significantly after a year of sobriety, and again even more so after five years of sustained sobriety. Arriving at these milestones is crucial for a recovering addict or alcoholic, and with the right planning, preparation, and support, it is achievable.

At the Discovery Institute, we address relapse prevention in our family therapy program because we know that family members and the family dynamic can play a huge role in relapse. Acquainting the addict’s or alcoholic’s family with the signs of relapse and arming them with prevention tools increases the chances of long-term sobriety for the client. It is important for those close to the patient to recognize the warning signs that precede a relapse, and symptoms that may indicate a relapse has occurred, in order to best support the patient in their recovery and maintain accountability within the family system. Signs of an impending or recent relapse include:

  • Lying, manipulation, or keeping secrets and withholding information from friends and family
  • A return to old patterns of behavior, such as stealing or borrowing money excessively
  • Failure to comply with medication regimen or treatment/aftercare recommendations
  • Drastic changes in routine, such as a drop in attendance at 12 step meetings
  • Loss of a job or slipping grades
  • The presence of drugs, drug paraphernalia, or alcohol in the individual’s room or home
  • Drastic changes in mood or intense mood swings

There are many reasons a recovering addict or alcoholic may relapse, and identifying risk factors is an important aspect of creating a recovery-supportive environment and helping to prevent a return to substance use or drinking. Factors that could lead to relapse include:

  • An emotional event such as a breakup or the loss of a family member, friend, or pet
  • Loss of job, source of income, or home
  • Experiencing triggers and temptation through exposure to people, places, or things that involve drug use or alcohol consumption
  • The belief that the addiction is “cured,” and a failure to maintain a routine of recovery in daily life
  • Health problems or injury
  • Having too much alone time, social isolation, or difficulty in relationships

The relapse process begins before the addict or alcoholic picks up the drink or drug, and that is why the time period before a relapse is called “relapse mode”. It generally happens in three stages, and can take place over a day or two or happen over a long period of time.

In the first stage, the person becomes emotionally vulnerable. The individual could be dealing with one of the disruptive life events listed above, or could have stopped treating a mental condition that contributes to addictive behaviors, such as depression or anxiety. Any of these circumstances can cause a recovering individual to lower their guard, which increases the temptation to use drugs or drink.

In the second stage of relapse, the individual is actively considering a return to their drug of choice. They may be fighting an internal battle at this stage, but addiction is a powerful force. The thoughts may be fleeting or infrequent at first, but they can develop into an all-consuming obsession that causes a drastic change in the individual’s demeanor and behavior.

The final stage of relapse is the action phase, in which the individual uses a drug or consumes alcohol. This can be an isolated event, or it can lead to a binge or a spree. Both outcomes often have tragic consequences for the addict/alcoholic and for their family and loved ones. The goal of drug and alcohol relapse prevention is to stop the relapse process before the individual gets to this stage and picks up a substance. Relapse prevention, if done thoroughly, can prevent the addict or alcoholic from returning to substance use, and can support long-term recovery.

Drug and Alcohol Relapse Prevention Therapy at Discovery

At the Discovery Institute in New Jersey, we work with our patients and their families and support groups to create comprehensive drug and alcohol relapse prevention plans. Effective relapse prevention requires a comprehensive approach. Some of the methods we use to help our clients prevent relapse include:

    • Individual therapy– this helps clients to process emotions and experiences that may trigger a relapse if they are not addressed, in a private, confidential environment in which the patient can safely navigate their feelings.
  • Group therapy– the group dynamic provides accountability within a peer support network, in which clients can give each other constructive feedback and suggestions as well as relate to one another in a therapist-facilitated environment.
  • Coping skills development- In clinical sessions, therapists work with patients to develop a repertoire of healthy coping mechanisms to help clients deal with potential relapse triggers without using alcohol or drugs. This may include meditation, mindfulness, DBT, CBT, or process groups.
  • Implementation of recovery support groups– Clinicians at Discovery support clients in their participation in recovery fellowships, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, which assist individuals in building lifelong sobriety.

At Discovery, the health, safety, and happiness of our clients is our ultimate priority. Throughout treatment at Discovery and during aftercare, patients will have access to a variety of drug and alcohol relapse prevention therapies designed to support them in their recovery from substance dependence.

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