If we talk about relapse in the context of drug addiction, it is all about the return of previous pathological patterns of drug use after a certain time period of staying abstinent. Relapse is the biggest fear in recovery for the recovering addict as well as for his or her family. In order to prevent relapse, it is important to get the recovering addict prepared for it beforehand so that he can minimize its destructive potential. In any recovery program, relapse prevention planning should be an essential part of it. For any recovering addict and his family, understanding and learning relapse prevention skills is highly indispensable. There is core knowledge available about the causes of relapse and the skills to prevent it in the recovering addict and his family must know about.
Both the patient and his family should be completely aware about the possible triggers for the patient that can provoke the urge to use drugs again such as stress, relationship conflicts, low self-esteem, financial crisis, meeting with slippery friends or going at slippery places, negative emotions like sadness, anger, boredom, anxiety, fear, jealousy, frustration etc or even positive emotions like extreme excitement, festivals, celebrations or parties. The recovering addict must also mindfully identify the early warning signs of relapse such as euphoric recalls, fantasizing the past, feeling bored in recovery, resenting the recovery life, ruminating about drugs or planning to use drugs again. Post acute withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, sleep difficulties, fatigue, depressed mood, low self-esteem, isolation, emptiness, and lack of pleasure are the symptoms that can be experienced by recovering addicts within three to six months of recovery and they usually last for around two years. The patients should be given complete awareness about these symptoms and they should be educated about how to minimize or manage these symptoms.
A common acronym in recovery is H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired). These four words are often taught to the recovering addicts for their recovery. It is essential for a person in recovery to take care of his health. He should eat nutritious and low-caloric food only, avoid junk food and excessive caffeine and sugar intake, take nutritious meals thrice a day and stay away from staying hungry. Physical hunger can be quite dangerous as it can trigger one’s cravings for drugs. The family should also be completely aware of this fact so that they can take care of the person more effectively. It is also important for the person in recovery to manage his anger or irritable mood. He should learn the coping skills to deal with his anger without the help of drugs. Anger outburst is an impulsive act that can make the person in recovery more susceptible to use drugs recklessly so he needs to learn how to cope with it, he should also learn effective and assertive communication skills to avoid potential interpersonal conflicts. Loneliness is another aspect which should be addressed during the recovery as it can lead the person towards a dark state of mind like depression, emptiness, and lack of meaning in life. These states make the person more vulnerable to think about using drugs again in order to get the company or to get rid of the painful emotional state. Attending support groups, talking to the counselor or sponsor, spending quality time with the family or sharing one’s feelings in group sessions all can be the helpful tactics to address loneliness. The fourth aspect of H.A.L.T. is tiredness. Relaxation is very crucial for a person in recovery as tiredness can take a toll on the body, mind and soul. Physical tiredness can also be one of the major reasons due to which a person can use drugs to get relaxed. Getting the right amount of night sleep i.e. around 8 hours is essential for a person in recovery.
Taking the recovery one day at a time is the effective policy of recovery and sobriety. It is not a matter of just a day, week, month or a year, recovery is a lifelong journey. All these suggestions act as vital behaviors for recovery and should be adopted as a way of life.