To understand relapse and how to prevent it, let’s first define it. Relapse occurs when you have achieved sobriety but return to using alcohol or drugs.

When you engaged in long-term abuse of alcohol or drugs you may have damaged brain function. These damaged brain cells will not resolve in the early stages of sobriety. This is one contributing factor to relapse.

Other common triggers are:

  • Social interaction – socializing with other drug or alcohol users.
  • Stress – encountering high-stress situations.
  • Interpersonal conflicts – having difficulty communicating with family members or close friends.
  • Lack of social support – including with family members and counselors.
  • Low self-efficacy – not believing you have the capability to achieve sobriety.

Relapse prevention is an integral part of your recovery as you may be at risk for months or years. Within the first year of sobriety relapse rates can be as high as 60% for substance users. With this rate in mind, it’s important to practice recovery techniques. Realize though that relapse is common and does not mean failure. Let’s now look at a few things you may learn in a treatment center to help with relapse prevention.

Holistic Healing

A holistic program will improve your success for sobriety. This type of program addresses your four levels of self. They include physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. You must focus on each level as they underly the addiction itself and, if not healed, the risk of relapse may occur. The intention is to heal you as a whole person instead of a single symptom or behavior. If you have imbalance in these areas, it will affect your overall health.

Your symptoms from abstaining may be different from someone else. You may have little physical withdrawal but more emotional symptoms.

Holistic treatment will address your physical symptoms resulting from addiction. These symptoms can include headaches, racing heart rate, sweating and nausea. Treatment will also address your emotional and mental symptoms. These include anxiety, depression, sleep and poor memory. Holistic treatment will prepare you to grow spiritually and emotionally. Your successful treatment program should include healthy nutritious eating and a fitness program.

Let’s look at ways to promote a healthier lifestyle in treatment and after your program has ended. These will help with relapse prevention.


It’s important to recognize how critical exercise is in your relapse prevention. You will have an increased will to achieve sobriety. Exercise will reduce cravings and improve your coping skills. Even a moderate exercise program can provide you relief from urges.

While in recovery, you will crave the high you were once seeking out. Exercise gives you a natural high with the release of endorphins. These chemicals cause feelings of euphoria. The feelings won’t be as intense as from drugs or alcohol but will be much healthier and sustainable. You will soon adapt to the natural levels of endorphins. You realize you are capable of regulating your mood in natural and healthy ways.

After working out you have a a clearer mind. Your feel optimistic with a stronger belief in yourself. Your sense of accomplishment is high. You improve your ability to focus on your well-being in all areas of your life. You improve sleep with less occurrences of insomnia. You will wake up feeling refreshed and with greater energy to start your day.

Before you start on a fitness program get the green light from your family physician. Find out how intense you can work out and the frequency. If you have a membership with a community rec center, make an appointment with a trainer on your first visit. They will plan a routine that works for you based on your fitness level. It may include cardio as well as strength training. Your cardio workouts may include running on the treadmill or elliptical and rowing machines. You can also see if they offer yoga, tai chai, or swimming lessons. These are all great programs that have low impact on your body and are especially good for beginners. This will also help with relapse prevention.


With mindfulness, you have an increased awareness of your feelings and emotions. This awareness helps you recognize trigger which can lead to relapse. Your self-awareness will help to change your thinking from negative to positive.

While on your personal journey you may lose motivation and enthusiasm. To maintain sobriety it helps to tap into mindfulness. This will help to change your thinking and remove negative thoughts.

To get started with mindfulness, try and be present in the moment. Focus on your reality and not how you perceive it. Recognizing how you feel in the moment will help to develop strong coping skills.

You can achieve mindfulness by formal training in the practice of meditation. You will discover early on that it can become your best friend.

Learn to control your breathing to help deal with stress and conflicts. Controlled breathing calms the mind. It de-escalates that downward spiral into harmful thoughts and ideas.

Be aware of your thoughts and understand them for what they are, which is just thoughts. Thoughts precede actions, both negative and positive. When you start to feel anxious, depressed, or worthless, examine your thoughts. Try to understand what caused you to feel this way. Take the opportunity to change them and move on to more positive thoughts. This will help with relapse prevention.


While abusing drugs and alcohol you may lose focus on healthy eating. You deprive your body of essential vitamins and minerals. You may also have obtained an unhealthy amount of calories from alcohol. Alcohol abuse can cause vitamin deficiencies which can lead to anemia.

Many individuals in recovery will turn to junk food to replace addictions. This results in health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Drugs and alcohol affect your brain chemistry. This can have negative consequences in your mood. Healthy nutrients will improve and stabilize your moods. Negative mood swings will increase the risk for cravings followed by relapse.

Turkey and chicken contain complete proteins, which will help to produce new neurotransmitters. Vegetables such as kale, cabbage and broccoli are great choices to support your liver. They help to get rid of toxins that have accumulated. Toxicity in the body will affect the stability of your moods, which could lead to relapse.

You can reduce your feelings of depression and anxiety with a diet rich in omega-3 foods. These foods will improve your concentration, focus and sleep. Foods rich in omega-3 include salmon, sardines, tuna, cashews and other nuts.

Dark green leafy vegetables are important for your diet. Your vitamins and minerals were most likely depleted and need replacing. They contain vitamins B and C, as well as magnesium. These improve your health, help to manage stress, and improve your brain functions.

Dehydration can cause fatigue so be sure to drink water. Fatigue is a common trigger to relapse. If you prefer flavored water, add fresh lemon or lime or try decaffeinated herbal teas. A good rule of thumb to follow is to drink two liters of water a day.

Improve your chances of reducing stress and preventing relapse, by creating a plan. Your plan should include your grocery list and detailed menus for the week ahead. Proper nutrition will restore your mental and physical health. This will help to prevent relapse.

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A professional support system in place will improve the success of your sobriety. Therapists will teach you how to deal with cravings and adopt a healthy lifestyle. They will also provide ongoing support. Therapy sessions may include family therapy, group therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) addresses the relationship between your thoughts and actions.. You can use it to change your negative behavior such as substance abuse. CBT is a great skill that you can use throughout your life. Draw upon it when you experience stressful and negative thoughts. This type of therapy is hands-on and focuses on action. After learning CBT skills you can identify your automatic thoughts of negativity. Your negative thoughts may lead to drugs or alcohol for relief.

Group Therapy

Research shows that when you take part in group therapy, positive outcomes increase. Group therapy lets you know you are not alone in your journey. Your feelings of isolation are less. It provides much needed structure and routine in your life. You will meet others in the same situation and discuss common issues. Solutions bounce off each other and reached as a group. Providing support to others is also a key benefit. You will increase your feelings of self worth and belief in yourself. You will find your voice and improve relations in confidential, group therapy. A leader is usually present to help improve interpersonal communication skills.

Family Therapy

The impact of substance abuse affects yourself as well as your family. Therapy addresses the damage that has occurred and healing begins. Family therapy is the beginning to heal those relationships and address the chaos. In family therapy everyone has a voice in a safe place. While it may be difficult to hear, it is a very important and crucial part of family therapy. They may be feeling angry, neglected, or ashamed and will want you to understand this. Trained therapists will provide education about substance use for your family members. Communication with your family will improve so they become better supporters.

Family restructuring may be part of your family therapy. This technique will address the underlying beliefs and family rules. The dynamics in your relationships with examined. The behaviors, expectations, and roles with your family members take shape differently. This is import for the success of your relapse prevention.

It is important for the success of your sobriety to have the support of your close family members. This will help with relapse prevention.


When you reach a level of sobriety and want to maintain it, find strength in a higher power. It will help tremendously. Spirituality is unique for each person. It means finding your passion and purpose for living. A higher power means many things to many people. For you it may be God, for others it could be the Universe, Spirit, or Oneness.

You can nurture your spirituality by practicing prayer and meditation. You can also develop breathing techniques, practice yoga and connect with nature. If you prefer an organized religion, reach out for personal support.

Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal will help you to connect with your inner self. Embracing gratitude in your life helps you to recognize the good things in life. Write down what you are grateful for. Contemplate how thankful you are for them and how they improve your life. Gratitude will help you to stay sober. You realize you have things you can look forward to and help with relapse prevention.

These practices help to deal with feelings that you may experience in recovery. These include shame, guilt and other negative thoughts. When you begin to grow, you will find peace, calm and serenity in your life. Spirituality will help you to improve your coping skills. These skills will allow you to decrease stress, improve your focus, and take control of your life. These feelings will motivate you to stay sober and lessen the risk of relapse.


Treatment plans will vary depending on the substance and your personal characteristics. Our treatment center will match our services so you can achieve the greatest success. Learning the life skills we teach will help to ensure you reach a long and wonderful life of sobriety. Our treatment center will help you identify situations that may be high risk. You can then plan for a productive future. When you are ready to start on your personalized journey to sobriety, contact us so we can help you succeed and prevent relapse.

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