In a recent episode of The Conners, Becky—an alcoholic in recovery—worries about attending her father’s upcoming wedding because there will be so much alcohol readily available. She does not want to experience a relapse, but she is nervous that she will not be able to withstand the temptations. Her aunt (and later, the man who has a crush on her) suggests she walk around the wedding reception with a Shirley Temple in her hand so she can’t pick up another drink. Becky sarcastically hails her aunt for curing alcoholism.
Relapse Is No Joke
The joke lands in no small part because we understand that there is, in fact, no cure for alcoholism–or any other substance use disorder. As any person in recovery knows, relapse is an ongoing risk.
The good news is that the risk of relapse can be managed. The key is to take proactive steps that will lessen that risk. What kind of steps?
We’re glad you asked. Here are some ideas for keeping relapse at bay.
Keep Your Focus On Others
When you are in recovery, it is all too easy to keep the focus on yourself. You are working so hard to maintain your hard-won sobriety, and it can become something of an obsession—and understandably so.
But it turns out that one of the best things you can do to protect your sobriety is to shift your focus to what you can do for others. When you help out in your neighborhood, volunteer for a cause that is important to you, give back to the larger recovery community, or advocate for others in any number of ways, you are also doing yourself a service. These sorts of activities can serve as an essential reminder of why your sobriety is important. After all, you are better able to make a difference for others—and for yourself—when you are sober.
Prioritize Your Physical Health
We know that keeping the body healthy is important for everyone. But a person who is using drugs or alcohol is likely damaging their physical health over time. So one reason to get some exercise in recovery is simply to help your body get into better shape. Physical activity can also provide a firmer foundation for your recovery because when you feel good physically, you are less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol.
Of course, protecting and improving our physical health is a multifaceted activity. You will want to find a physical activity you enjoy so that you are more likely to stick with it. You will want to adjust your diet so that you limit processed foods and increase the whole, natural foods you consume. And you will want to ensure that you get enough restful sleep to allow you to recharge after each busy day.
Maximize Your Mental Health
Good mental health and long-term sobriety go hand in hand. And it is encouraging to note that all of the strategies listed above for maintaining your physical health will also give your mental health a boost. But there are plenty of other things to do in support of mental well-being.
First and foremost, you should get help for any mental health disorders—depression, anxiety, trauma-based disorders, and more—you may be experiencing. Therapy, medication, or a combination of the two may be in order. In addition, build a strong support network of family and friends who will help you protect your sobriety. And find activities that support your mental health, whether that means mindfulness practice, journaling, or simply taking up a hobby you truly enjoy.
Relapse Reality Check
We want to note something important here: relapses are prevalent among those in recovery. But experiencing a relapse is not the end of your recovery journey. You have more work to do, and you should return to treatment to ensure that work is as effective as possible. What you should not do is despair. The recovery journey is long—and you can get back on the right path even after a relapse.
You Can Turn to Us for Help
Whether you are getting sober for the first time or working to reclaim your sobriety after a relapse, French Creek Recovery Center can help. With a robust blend of expertise and compassion, we will personalize a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs. We are always here to support your recovery journey—and we will never judge you if you suffer a relapse. If you need help, you can count on us.