For anyone who is struggling with addiction knows how difficult it is to quit using. Most people who struggle with a substance use disorder most often seek help with a recovery coach, psychologist, psychiatrist, or with online counseling.

When the addicted individual has the substance use disorder under control, the relapse rate for most substance use disorders is estimated at between 50-80% within the first six months of abstinence from the substance and 60% within the first year.

Relapse Defined

The term relapse when it comes to a substance use disorder is a generalized term. Relapse in recovery from substance use disorder occurs progressively in 3 stages before the individual is in “full” decline from the abstinence of the substance. Relapse can happen in 3 steps:

1.) Emotional Relapse– Whereby the addicted individual in recovery is not thinking about using the substance of abuse, but their emotions and behavior are triggering the relapse. The classic sign’s of emotional relapse is bottled up emotions (i.e., isolation from family and friends, skipping recovery coaching sessions or support groups or not actively participating in support groups when they do show up as well as reduced self-esteem and self-care (hygiene).

2.) Mental Relapse– This becomes a bargaining event for the addicted individual as to whether or not they want to go back to using or not go back to using. The addicted individual starts to become both physically and mentally restless as well as discontent and irritable. Addicted individuals begin to contemplate and revisit their substance use disorder; unfortunately, they may get “stuck” and revisit mental relapse.

3.) Physical Relapse– This is where the addicted individual will actually relapse and use again even it is only one time. Unfortunately, when the addicted individual relapses, they tend to use more than double the amount of the substance before the relapse, and this can potentially be dangerous. The longer the individual wrestles with the emotional and mental relapse, the more likely they will fall victim to the physical relapse.

In this article, I have outlined 24 Ways to Avoid Relapse While in Recovery:

1.) Participate In a Support Group– Outside of Recovery Coaching, Therapy, or Online Counseling, many support groups are specific for the addiction you or a loved one is experiencing. Some support groups are for:

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA)
Gamblers Anonymous (GA)
Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
Sexacholics Anonymous (SA)

These support groups can be very positive and successful in that you meet up with like-minded individuals who are battling the same addiction(s). However, the drawback is that they can become social events for networking with others who can potentially trigger a relapse. Support groups for substance abuse need to be moderated and led by experienced individuals who themselves have a lot of recovery time under their belt. A more effective one on one and more personalized support is with online recovery coaching.

2.) Exercise– Even 30 minutes of exercise per day in all forms has many health benefits for the individual in recovery. Health benefits of exercise while in recovery are, oxygenation of vital organs, (brain, lungs, skin, etc.), weight loss, better mental health which in turn helps your energy level, mental cognition, and self-confidence. Exercise helps replenish natural neurotransmitter chemicals such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in your brain to help ward off depression, which is a significant contributor to relapsing. According to the Anxiety and Depression of America, substance abuse and depression go hand in hand.

3.) Music– is an excellent outlet for focusing your mind and relaxing. Take caution when listening to music that is associated with past substance abuse it may trigger a relapse. Consider changing to a different genre of music, perhaps something more calming and soothing.

4.) Accomplishment and purpose– also known as figuring out your mission and plan in life. Take time and brainstorm what motivates you in life and how you can contribute to society by helping other peoples lives better. Purpose provides a sense of gratitude and thankfulness for what you have, compared to other people. Studies have shown that the human brain is wired so that they feel a great deal of accomplishment and gratitude when they give rather than receive. The Cleveland clinic reports studies that were conducted that there are real health benefits that come from giving to others rather than receiving.

5.) Cleaning and Organizing– your closets, garage, old invoices and receipts, your house car, and anything else that needs organizing and cleaning. By doing this, it provides a sense of accomplishment and achievement. The concept of cleaning, throwing away, and donating is a symbolic way of clearing your mind and body; it’s a purge! There are some real health benefits to cleaning and organizing.

6.) Comedy and Entertainment– Studies have shown that laughter releases the “feel food” neurotransmitter chemicals (Serotonin, Dopamine) in the brain. Going to a good comedy show or movie that creates “deep” laughter helps elevate your mood. Laughter also decreases stress and helps boost the immune system. A Mayo Clinic report details the many health benefits of laughter

7.) Being With Loved Ones and Friends– having a good stable and dependable and healthy support structure with family, friends and, loved ones is the most critical first step in getting through addiction and recovery successfully. Disassociating with people in your life that were involved with your addiction (“dealer,” people you used with) will need to be removed immediately (get rid of phone numbers and anything that may trigger relapse). Without a solid support structure, you are 3-4x more likely to relapse.

In addition to a suitable support structure during recovery, it is always a good idea to have a close association with a Recovery Coach, Online Counselor who is available at a moment’s notice. PsychCentral reports on the importance of a good support system when it comes to addiction and recovery.

8.) Meaningful and Constructive Conversation– with family and loved ones. Engaging in meaningful conversation the form plans and goals for the future that relates to resetting and repurposing a career change, furthering your educational plans, or merely discussing plans to travel. Meaningful conversation accomplishes 1.) getting your mind off of relapsing and 2.) it gives you something to look forward to in the future for goal setting. Psychology Today reports on the importance of deep conversation and how it helps with Recovery and Addiction

9.) Sleep (at least 7 hours minimum)– For most individuals who are recovering from stimulants (i.e., cocaine, meth, and Adderall) knows that sleep deprivation is common. Catching up on sleep while in recovery is essential for several reasons, Sleep 1.) reduces stress 2.) reduces inflammation 3.) makes you more alert 4.) sleep improves memory and 5.) reduces depression. This U.S. Government report states the facts on the benefits of sleep.

10.) Meditation– When relapsing crosses your mind, it is best to take the time to slow down and meditate. The best way to do this is going into a cool dark room, shut your eyes, and picture yourself by the ocean listening to the waves crashing against the rocks. Meditation helps with 1.) controlling anxiety 2.) helps promote emotional health 3.) meditation helps with self-awareness. 4.) meditation helps with increasing your attention span. The hidden benefits of Meditation and recovery from addiction.

11.) Visiting Museums and or Theatres– is a great outlet to break up your the routine and mundane schedule of a long week as well as help enrich a positive environment for culture and education.

12.) Traveling and Exploring New Places– You can visit and explore new places within 20-50 miles from your home without breaking the bank. It is always a good idea to pack a lunch and go to a nearby lake, park or perhaps the mountains.

13.) Learning or Doing Something New- Take up a new hobby or a continuing education class (perhaps a foreign language, cooking or personal investing). Exploring something new will provide a purpose and plan for your life; who knows it may even lead to a career change or also allow you to meet new people.

14.) Reading– Can enrich your knowledge base and give you options to explore new areas of interest in your life. Reading books about addiction and recovery can arm you with knowledge about how other people overcame their battle with addiction. You can also read books on travel to faraway destinations that get your mind to escape relapse.

15.) Eat Healthy– eating healthy while in recovery and throughout recovery is a lifestyle change and choice that helps tremendously with recovery and relapse. A high protein diet of lean meat, fish, fresh fruit, and vegetables will assist with replenishing healthy neurotransmitter chemicals in your brain.     

You may also consider daily supplementation of a once a day multivitamin and 1,000-2,000mg/day of Vitamin C and 3-5 liters of water. Benefits of a healthy diet during and after addiction treatment.

16.) Enjoying The Outdoors and Nature– a hike in the mountains or a nature walk in the park will provide fresh air and an appreciation for what nature has to offer.

17.) Playing With Animals or Owning a Pet– Living in an age with a lot of stress and distraction, having a pet (dog/puppy, cat/kitten) that you can tend to, can help with 1.) Accountability and responsibility, and 2.) can function as a companion for anxiety during recovery to prevent relapse.

18.) Hot Bath or a Cold Shower– a warm bath will soothe your senses, relax your muscles, and make you feel tired and relaxed, which is best in the evening for sound sleep.

A cold shower will make you feel more invigorated and helps with wakefulness and depression when taken during the day.

19.) Dressing Well– Is a great way to boost your self-esteem and confidence. Maybe take the time and go out and buy a new outfit if you have some spare change laying around.

20.) Playing Outdoors or Board Games Indoors– depending on the weather. Games are a great outlet to avoid relapse. Outdoor games and sports (horseshoes, corn hole, etc.) and childhood board games have a way of taking you back in time to a simpler, more innocent time in your life.

21.) Learn How to Play a Musical Instrument– learning how to play a musical is excellent in that it helps sharpen your concentration and brings out the creative side of your personality. Who knows, you may end up in a band.

22.) Arts and Crafts– Learning how to draw, paint or sculpt or any other form of art, like music, helps with concentration skills as well as the creative side of your personality. I cannot begin to tell how many clients I have recovery coached who have brought their artwork to me during a session.

23.) Cooking– Participating in cooking classes or merely cooking for yourself or loved ones is very therapeutic when going through recovery to avoid a relapse. Cooking related allows you to be creative as well as serve others by giving back. Learning how to cook is also a good discipline that will put you on the right track to eat healthier, which is part of the recovery process.

24.) Doing Something Helpful for Someone Else– serving rather than being served on or giving (by helping) rather than receiving is always more rewarding. Helping someone provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment for you, but more importantly, it helps to empower and lift the spirits of the individual you are promoting.

With the odds stacked against the addicted individual for relapse, the main thing to keep in mind is 1.) Addiction and Recovery requires a lot of patience 2.) Recovery is a one day at a time process and 3.) Substituting good habits for bad habits is the key to success. None of the above mentioned (24 listed) items is a magic bullet for avoiding relapse; however, it is best to incorporate a combination of the activities as to what will work best for you.