If you or someone you love has attended a drug rehab program for alcohol or drug addiction and successfully completed it, it is a huge accomplishment. While in treatment tools were provided to assist in staying clean and sober, relapse prevention plans were developed, and aftercare plans were made. Although successfully completing is a great feat, successfully completing treatment is just the beginning.

We applaud the accomplishments of patients. It is nice to see progress made, insights gained, and increased awareness of addiction and addictive behaviors. However, remember that remaining drug-free will be a challenge because true recovery is a life-long journey. Some people will remain clean, some will relapse, and some will become what is commonly referred to as “chronic relapsers.”

There is no magic wand to help substance abusers avoid relapse; staying clean and sober takes a lot of hard work and commitment. However, there are ways to decrease relapse potential with the hopes of avoiding relapsing completely.

It is hard in the beginning, but rest assured, as time goes by, the self-esteem that is built from having these components in your life will more than make up for the absense of the substances you’ve been using to destroy yourself. Because ultimately, its about feeling good about yourself. To that, we offer to you these simple ways to help in relapse prevention:

1. Flex your willpower muscles – Willpower can be limited, but only if we believe it is limited. The truth is temptation is everywhere. However, when you resist one temptation, you can better resist the next one more easily. Every time you let an urge pass without giving in to it, you become stronger so that with time, it gets easier to resist those urges. In short, you are only as strong as you let yourself be.

2. Be proactive and positive – It’s not easy to maintain a positive attitude at all times, but there are things you can do to stay away from obsessing over a negative thought. Call your sponsor or therapist (have them on speed dial), because knowing that support is right at your fingertips can build your ability to stay positive. When your restless or you need company, go find someone.

3. Live in the moment – Vigilance is the key, and you cant be vigilant if you’re romanticizing the past. Most of your self-esteem will come from being sober and working through your issues.

4. Stay in Therapy – Now that you’re sober, you have a world of emotional issues to confront without the numbing agents of drugs and alcohol. Continue weekly appointments with your therapist (for at least a year or two) as well as group meetings. This will complete your healing and provide you the coping tools that are your insurance.

5. Have Patience – You and your family all need lots of patience as your healing sets in. Emotions are volatile, insomnia is rampant and patients begin to feel as if they will be miserable for the rest of their lives. No one needs to assume that relapse will happen, and there’s no point in constantly worrying about it. If you get bored, join a health club, go for a walk, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for your self. Everything you’ve accomplished so far has been nothing short of heroic and things aren’t going to change overnight, remember, be patient!

6. Sleep – Sure, we need to exercise and eat healthy, but nothing we can do has the health-restorative benefits of simple sleep. As addicts, many of us have lost the ability to get enough rest. Our abuse of drugs and alcohol has totally untrained our bodies in the art of falling asleep. You shouldn’t sleep during the day and isolate yourself from the rest of the waking world because frankly, it’s counter-productive.

7. Avoid Being around Drugs and Alcohol – You can still be crazy, funny and cool. Your life can still be full and should be more full of great times and memorable people and places. Recovering addicts are probably the most fun, smart and entertaining people around. And they enjoy huge success by staying out of harm’s way, especially in the beginning. Bars, nightclubs, casinos, neighborhoods and environments where you used to drink and use – it should be a conscious choice to avoid these places until you develop the ego strength to go there.

In short, if you hang around the barbershop long enough, you’re going to get a hair cut! Take your power back and make good decisions. You got clean and sober to have a new life, don’t go dancing on a minefield. You have options today, use them.

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